Aloha, loyal leaders, Capt. Fletch here, saluting those enduring hell in Maui as we sit down for another edition of the Leadership Toolbox. Last month we examined how pride, when used properly, can be an effective leadership tool. This month we turn our attention to a key tenet of getting the best from our people: understanding exactly what their endgame is.

In recent conversations with colleagues, I have noticed a trend of distrust in the hiring process. It seems the fluidity of job seekers searching for the “right” fit has created an adversarial element on both sides of the hiring process. Is it wrong for a job seeker to accept a position only to quickly realize it isn’t what they hoped for or were led to believe? Likewise, is it absurd for an employer to guard against hiring personnel they see as unsure or, in some cases, as using their organization as a gap job? Both sides of this equation have valid perspectives. Looking at the post Covid-19 workforce, I think it’s clear that many people spent a great deal of time examining not only what they want out of a job but out of their lives. This phenomenon appears to have caught organizations off guard. However, if we examine the matter from a leadership perspective, I see a path that benefits both groups.

Consider this, for instance. I have witnessed employers advertise “project manager” positions, only to find they actually wanted to fill a lower-tier position. The job advertisement serves as the first point of connection to a potential employee. Organizations need complete transparency in the role and its expectations. This includes advertising the potential salary, listing benefits and providing as much understanding of the job expectations upfront as possible. The more honest an organization, the greater chance they find someone they consider the “right” fit.

This leads directly to the second key part for employers: interviews. Having interviewed for many jobs, I consider this the key pitfall for many organizations. The questions employers use in this part of the hiring process need to paint a picture of the whole person, a topic I wrote about previously. Examine your hiring questions. Ask yourself, what do we hope to gain from these? Do the questions direct the conversation to the information we want to find? Do we focus too much on technical jargon, and industry skills and qualifications?

Instead of fearing that someone may use our organization as a gap job for whatever reason — experience, temporary employment while waiting for another position, education benefits — why not embrace the potential of these employees?

For reference, the hiring questions for my current role leaned on my verbal knowledge of construction management terms and documents. In contrast, I pose that organizations should seek to get to the bottom line of what a potential employee wants from the experience. Instead of fearing that someone may use our organization as a gap job for whatever reason — experience, temporary employment while waiting for another position, education benefits — why not embrace the potential of these employees? Imagine asking an employee their intentions upfront. What if they say they need the job for their resume and that a position elsewhere is their ultimate goal? With this knowledge upfront, could we maximize that person’s potential if we use their ambitions as leverage to extract their best efforts? I have always made adaptive leadership the cornerstone of my personal leadership philosophy. In a work market where employees realize their self-worth and better understand what they want, we need to adapt our approach. The adaptive leader asks how we harness these traits to the advantage of both the employee and employer.

On the flipside, potential employees need to show complete honesty with potential employers in the hiring process. Almost all interviews feature a question along the lines of, “What are your expectations?” or, “What are you looking for from this position?” In this key moment, be honest. Tell the organization about your plans, goals and lifestyle. What is your endgame?

When I began interviewing with companies after the military, I developed a list of things important to me. When I walked into the interview and reached that part of the conversation, I stated those things plainly and explained what I wanted out of the potential relationship. In essence, the hiring process is a lot like forming a new relationship. Similarly, not all relationships last a lifetime, and that’s okay! If you reflect on the personal relationships in your life, every one of them served a purpose in your journey. Jobs and hiring are very similar. What does it matter if we have an employee for one year or 30? The questions we need to ask are:

  • Did both of us get what we were looking for out of that relationship?
  • Can we depart with mutual respect?

I have implemented this system of very honest dialogue with my athletes as a sports coach. It is not always easy, but if we have an honest and open dialogue upfront, we ensure an understanding of everyone’s intentions and desires. From there, we can develop a strategy for a mutually beneficial relationship if both parties want to move forward. Like most leadership tools, this one begins with the organization and a willingness leaders to adapt to — if we’re honest — a really radical way of thinking. Expanding our minds a bit could ultimately lead to the retention of people who may not have considered staying otherwise. Relationships can change. If we stay open to the personal “big” picture of our employees, we just might find they elect to stay longer. Think about it.

Until next time, Capt. Fletch over and out.