"Frank's skill in asking the right questions is un-mistakable, and is at the core of his leadership philosophy.

The power of these questions cannot be underestimated, especially if you want to lead and not manage."
—John Cave
Westhaven Worldwide Logistics

If not otherwise stated—all postings © Frank D. Kanu. All rights reserved.

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Getting Recruitment Right

We have looked before at the importance of getting recruitment right.

That’s why I was interested in an interview conducted with Mark Murphy, the founder and CEO of cutting-edge research and leadership training providers, ‘Leadership IQ’.

In the interview Mark talks of the 20,000 new hires his company tracked. I was more than a little shocked to read that 46% of them failed within 18 months. Interestingly, only 11% of the failures were attributed to lack of skill. 89% of failures were down to attitudinal reasons, including low emotional intelligence and poor levels of motivation.

The fault lies, of course, with employer recruitment processes. These are reasonably effective at assessing whether candidates have the right skill sets for the job. Unfortunately they often fail to evaluate whether the right soft skills are in place for the candidate to thrive in the organization’s culture.

So how do you determine whether someone you’re thinking of hiring has the right personality for the job and for your organization?

Rather than plunder what Mark Murphy and the other experts interviewed in the article suggest, I put my thinking cap on and came up with the following:
  • Have recruitment days that involve not only an interview but also interaction with other candidates and with existing members of staff.
  • Assess how and where you found your best people and apply that to recruiting new employees.
  • Analyze what makes your best people tick… their academic history, their social life outside work, their use of social media and so on to determine an ‘ideal candidate profile’.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions that probe cultural fit, e.g.:
    • How do you feel about working in an open plan environment?
    • What would a great working day consist of?
    • What’s your definition of career success?
    • How do you feel about devolving important tasks?

Having the right people around you is key for leadership success.

Candidates having the right technical skills is no longer enough!


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Take as Much Time Off as You Want When You Want

If you work at the company ‘Netflix’, you can take as much time off as you want when you want.

This might leave you aghast.

Or it might give you pause for thought.

You see, Netflix employees had begun to challenge the lack of fit between their technology driven jobs (working from home at any time of day or night… responding to business communications wherever they are) and the company’s traditional ‘time-off’ policy.

The company therefore developed a new ‘Reference Guide on our Freedom and Responsibility Culture’. This focuses on achievement… what people get done… rather than how many hours they have worked.

Virgin’s Sir Richard Branson has liked the look of this and is rolling out a similar policy for a part of his business. All salaried staff can now take off as much time as they want whenever they want. Neither employees nor managers are expected to keep track of days away from the office. The main caveat is that their projects are up to date and that neither the business nor their careers are damaged.

I think this is quite revolutionary—more revolutionary in many ways than the fact that technology allows mobile and home working—because for the first time business leaders are adjusting attitudes and policies to embrace working methods (rather than maintaining the dissonance between new working practices and outmoded policies).

‘So it’s all good then, Frank?’

Honest answer… I don’t know. Regular readers of this blog will know my misgivings about the blurring of lines between our work and home lives and the effect this has on society. This could just be fanning those flames. And it could be abused by companies super-loading their employees with objectives so they take no time off at all.

This is certainly something I will be watching with great interest… and I suggest all business leaders do the same.


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Research from the UK’s Exeter and Newcastle universities has supported what I have always suspected… that the overconfident among us are rewarded disproportionately to their actual ability.

Unfortunately, the converse is also true. Those who underestimate how able they are can be seen as having less ability than is actually the case.

The research studied 72 individuals on a course. Only 11 were accurate in their assessment of their own ability (in other words, their final marks confirmed their predictions). 29 students were over-confident and 32 were under-confident.

The trouble was there was a distinct correlation between the grades students predicted for themselves and the grades others predicted for them. So… students predicted success for their over-confident colleagues even though this proved not to be the eventual outcome.

Even worse, these erroneous impressions of the likely success rate of the over-confident were the same six weeks into the course as they were at the beginning—so even getting to know each other made no difference.

Worryingly… the overconfident types were shown as more likely to take risks. So, when businesses reward the most self-deceiving rather than the most accomplished individuals, not only are they progressing the less able but also the most reckless.

Think of the implications of this.

Over-confident, less able and more reckless people at the top of major companies, the armed forces and other key institutions.

I see it all the time… and you’ve only got to look at the news to see the problems it causes.


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What Is Worst?

Considering a fan an electronic device or taking a knee on first down to run the ball on second?

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If, as a member of your staff, I was able to cycle to work:
  • would I find somewhere to securely park my bike?
  • is there somewhere I could shower and get changed?
  • would this be a perfectly acceptable thing to do or would I be considered eccentric?

I ask this because research conducted by British organisation ‘Cyclescheme’ (which supports people getting a bike tax-free provided their employer is part of the scheme) has found that the cyclists in a workforce are more productive… and more likely to get promoted than their non-cycling counterparts.

Apparently some 82% of the 2,500 cyclists surveyed said that they felt less stressed and more productive after cycling to work. And 63% of the 100 employers surveyed said there were knock-on improvements to their business as more staff used bikes to commute.

Cycling to work enjoys some big-hitting support in the UK. Charles Elvin, chief executive of the Institute of Leadership & Management, has said that anything that makes staff fitter and feel more motivated is a real win for managers.

And it’s a real win for the environment with some 760,000 in the UK using their bikes to get to work rather than their cars.

I think US leaders need to wake up to this phenomenon…

… although I accept that the very entrenched US car culture will make this a challenge!


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Straight Talk

I was thinking about this as I pondered the medical advice we are presented with on an almost daily basis by the health industry and a press too keen on headlines to challenge findings properly.

I’ll give you some examples.
Might be this…And might be that…
Children aren’t sufficiently encouraged to wash their hands to prevent transmission of illness causing bacteria.It’s bad for children not to be allowed to get dirty because this stops their immune system from evolving properly.
A drink of red wine each day contributes to our overall health and in particular stops heart disease.There is no proof that the wine ingredient resveratrol stops heart disease or prolongs life.
Fruit is good for your teeth.Fruit is bad for your teeth (particularly citrus fruits, apparently).
Sunbathing is bad for you.Low or no sun exposure will give you a vitamin D deficit.
Fish oil is good for you (a so-called ’super-food’).Too much omega 3 fats can lead to an increased risk of developing aggressive prostate cancer.
Drinking coffee may protect against prostate cancer, breast cancer, type-2 diabetes and gout.Coffee increases your risk of having a heart attack, is addictive and has been linked to rheumatoid arthritis.

And these are just a few!

Of course, in many cases it’s a question of degree. So—we all need some exposure to sunlight… but spending hours in it unprotected will probably be a bad idea.

But back to my question. Take a look at the last six month of internal communications in your company. I’ll bet there’s something about the ‘need to improve customer service’ somewhere in there. And there’s probably something about the need to reduce customer facing staff. There might be something about the ability to work smart… and something else about the need for everyone to be office-based. And something about the company caring about its people… yet wage increases are on hold despite inflation increases and we all need to work harder once the current round of redundancies has gone though.

All of which leads to a confused and disaffected workforce.

If you cannot tell it straight, I say, then don’t tell it at all.


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Scottish Independence

I try to be apolitical in this blog—and hopefully at the end of this entry you will still consider me so.

But something happening on the other side of the ‘pond’ has caught my eye.

I am grateful to Wikipedia for the following information:

In the 2009 US Community Census Survey, 6.85 million Americans self-identified as having solely Scottish ancestry. 27.5 million Americans reported Scottish ancestry either alone, or in combination with another nationality.

I wonder how many of these have on their radar the fact that a referendum on whether Scotland should be an independent country will take place on 18th September 2014.

All residents in Scotland aged over 16 can vote. They will be asked a simple question.

‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’

Now as you can imagine, there have been campaigns… arguments… and all the other elements that go along with elections.

But to me it comes down to one thing.

In a world which seems as divided, threatening and lacking in civilized behavior as ever… shouldn’t we all resist any drive to create division where there currently isn’t any? I am not saying that we merge into one amorphous mass of humanity with no regard for individual cultures. Of course not. But if mankind is to survive then we need cohesion, not separation… more collaboration and less individualism.

What do you think?


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Having just vented about business jargon, I should mention that someone recently asked me what I thought about scrum meetings.

As honesty is the best policy in situations like this, I told my colleague that I hadn’t the faintest idea what she was talking about.

“You know,” she said, “scrum… a daily stand-up meeting”.

Well—I hadn’t come across this so thought I had better research it. Apparently ’scrum’ is a product development process which encourages close daily collaboration on a project thus avoiding the traditional sequential methodology.

Now that sounds like a good thing.

And, to be honest, so do stand-up meetings. After all, what better incentive to cut to the chase than being obliged to stand up rather than settling down (as so many do) for a long-haul disorganized exchange?

Talking of being organized, the stand-up meeting agenda also meets with Kanu approval. This is because the meetings are based around the three key questions that neatly characterize all of our working experiences, namely:
  1. What did I achieve yesterday?
  2. What will I achieve today?
  3. What obstacles are in my way?

All this said, ‘google’ something like ‘disadvantages of stand-up meetings’ and you get to see the other side of the stand-up meeting coin. Meetings that started at 15 minutes and now go on forever. Meetings that degenerate into ‘gripe-fests’ (ugh, more jargon). Meetings that disadvantage the more introverted team member. Meetings that should be nature be held in the morning but have somehow got moved to the afternoon. The list goes on…

… and stand-up meetings shouldn’t.

Fortunately, given that I am declaring myself ‘for’ the concept of a stand-up meeting, not one of the issues with stand-up meetings I saw online was insurmountable.

They just needed leadership from the (please forgive the jargon)… scrum-master (more ugh!).


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