A walk in park

Hiring and managing existing people in team is not a walk in park. But a walk in park can reveal a lot.

Ramesh, a CEO of a industrial equipment manufacturing company, told me this story when as a part our coaching session I asked him to recount one of his hiring mistakes.

“Our logistics head had just resigned.  And it was a relief because in his short stint with us he had left many tasks half done, had made hasty arrangements, hadn’t informed his colleagues and had caused general confusion in our dispatches and invoices.  I had decided to get to the bottom of things and I had put together information on a couple of major goof ups. I had gotten others too with him in my office so that there would be no behind-the-back-blame-game. The situation soon unraveled. His casual approach was clear as day light to every one. I ended the meeting abruptly. An hour later he walked in with his resignation.  After seeing him off I started recollecting how I had hired him. Somehow the incident was etched in my memory. 

I was standing near the window of my first floor corner room in our two story factory building. No, it wasn’t ‘the’ corner room! It was one of those eight corner rooms our floor had due to a block of conference rooms which divided the hall in two halves. The window offered a pretty view of the nicely manicured lawns. Palm trees were thoughtfully planted on either edges of the lawns between the internal road leading to our building.

A candidate was to meet for an interview for the post of our logistics head. I had carefully read his CV.  His work experience included stints with reputed companies and he ticked all the right boxes.  Just as I was looking out of the window I saw a young man on the road between the lawns. He was carrying a folio of papers like they do when they go for interviews. The young man sauntered, taking in the scenery around him.  

The same man appeared in my office some minutes later. I met him and asked him questions of about his previous job and talked to him about what would be expected from him in our company.  Now as I was rewinding this incident in my mind it struck me hard. Why didn’t I think more about what was apparently very odd -his casual demeanor? Indeed, he met all requirements of the job and my colleagues who met him also had good impression of him. So I had done what was logical. I had hired him. But had failed to investigate his apparent casualness moments before he was to appear for an interview.

Theoretically, it is possible that a man who stays relaxed before an important meeting can be so because of high level of self assurance, but it is also likely to be a sign of a general casualness. I should have at least probed this.

I had erred in hiring him. Fortunately the error didn’t cost us much because in months which followed his joining our business boomed and the work pressure increased. The situation soon came to head as I described above.  He quit on his own. I learned that peoples’ attitudes limit or boost their knowledge and skills. Everything that is possible should be done to gauge their attitudes.”

Ramesh learned the right lesson from his mistake. We take a lot of efforts to evaluate people’s knowledge and skills. We also try to know about their attitudes. But we don’t do enough. While knowledge and skills can be enhanced through training and practice, it is very difficult change attitudes. It is not a walk in park.



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