Are You Hiring The Right People?
As a business owner, are you hiring the right people?
Perhaps a better question is, what is the impact of hiring the wrong people?
The following story of the Three Stone Masons highlights the impact of hiring the wrong people with a poor attitude and the effect it has on your business.
The Parable of Hiring the Right People
The Three Stone Masons
Cast your mind back to the early years of the fourteenth century. This was a time they were laying the foundations of a magnificent cathedral in central Europe. The Clerk of Works was a monk who was charged with the task of supervising the work of all the laborers and artisans.
This monk decided to carry out a study into the working practices of the stonemasons. Three stonemasons caught his eye as he looked down from his tower. They seemed to have different attitudes towards their profession.
Curious, the clerk of works climbed down from his tower and walked around the building site to find these stonemasons.
He approached the first stonemason and said, “My brother, tell me about your work.”
The stonemason stopped what he was doing for a moment and replied in a clipped voice full of anger and resentment, “As you see, I sit here in front of hunk of stone. It measures a meter, by half a meter, by half a meter.
And with every blow of my chisel against the block, I feel as though I am chipping away a part of my life. Look, my hands are callused and hard. My face is lined and my hair is grey. This work is never-ending, the same day in, day out. It wears me out.
Where”s my satisfaction? I”ll be dead long before the cathedral is even a quarter finished.” Huh – you ask me why I work. I work because I have to. Got bills to pay.”
Thank you brother said the clerk of works and continued walking around the building site.
The clerk of works approached the second stonemason. “Brother,” he said, “tell me about your work.”
“Brother,” replied the stonemason in a soft, even voice, “as you see, I sit here in front of my block of stone. It measures a meter, by half a meter, by half a meter. And with every stroke of my chisel against the block, I sense I am carving out a life and a future.
Look, how I am able to shelter my family in a comfortable house, far better than that in which I grew up. My children attend school. No doubt they will look forward to even more in life than I do. All this is made possible by my work. As I give to the cathedral through my skill, the cathedral gives back to me.”
The clerk of works said “thank you brother.” and approached the third stonemason. “Brother,” he said, “tell me about your work.”
“Brother,” replied the stonemason smiling and in a voice full of joy,” as you see, I sit here in front of this magnificent block of stone. It measures a meter, by half a meter, by half a meter. And with every caress of my chisel against the stone, I know I am shaping my destiny.
Look, see how the beauty trapped within the form of this stone begins to emerge. Sitting here, I am celebrating not only my craft and the skills of my profession, but I am contributing to everything that I value and believe in, a universe – represented by the cathedral – where each gives his best for the benefit of all.
Here at my block, I am at peace with who I am, and I am grateful that, although I will never see the completion of this great cathedral, it will still stand a thousand years from now, a beacon celebrating what is truly worthy in all of us, and a testament to the purpose for which the Almighty has put me on this earth.”
The clerk of works said – “thank you, brother.” He went away and reflected on what he had heard. He slept more peacefully that night than he had ever done.
The next day he resigned his commission as Clerk of Works and apprenticed himself to the third stonemason.
Adapted from “The Magic of Metaphor” by Nick Owen
This story was made famous by Peter F Drucker in his 1954 book, ‘The Practice of Management.’
The story is a powerful illustration of the challenges faced by business leaders today. Who to hire? How to create a culture within your organization where your people are inspired and motivated?
Attitude as a Hiring Decision
What we can take away from the parable of The Three Stone Masons is that within the construction site, they had hired three types of people.
- The Terrorist: Those with an attitude of breaking stones. They only do what they have to.
- The Worker: Those who could see beyond the hunk of stone and felt they were building a wall.
- The Visionary: Those who could see the greater vision, and that was they were building a cathedral
Attitude, good or bad affects the working environment. It also determines the culture of an organization that permeates from the bottom up. Ideally, you want the culture to be driven from the top down. The only way you can do this successfully is to hire and retain the right people.
You want to ensure you are hiring people who go beyond the task at hand and connect with the broader vision.
What We Can learn from this Parable
Let’s translate this story into the modern working environment.
A busy CEO of a research and development company walks around the workplace and asks the first employee he comes across and asks. “Do you like your job?”
He looks up at you and replies, “I’ve been working on this project for as long as I can remember. The work is monotonous and boring. I’m not even sure if this project will be completed in my lifetime. “But it’s a job. It pays the bills. I need the money.”
The CEO thanks him and moves on.
About thirty feet away walks up to a second employee and asks him the same question, “Do you like your job?”
The employee looks up and replies, “I enjoy my job. I’m working on this project but seems to take forever. However, working here means I can offer my family a better chance at life than I have. The money I earn from this job pays for a nice home. I can afford to send my children to a good school. Sure I like working here.”
The CEO says thank you and continues walking around the office. He comes across a third employee who seemed really engrossed in his work. He goes up to him as asked the same question. “Do you like working here?”
The third employee looks up with a smile on his face. “Do I like working here? I’ve been working on this project for as long as I can remember and yes, I don’t just like working here, I love working here.”
“Why is that?” asks the CEO.
The employee responded. “Sometimes the work is monotonous. I’m not even sure if this project will be completed in my lifetime. But deep down I know my contribution will last a lifetime. The work we do will transform the health and wellbeing for generations to come. I applaud the vision you have for the organization and the legacy you will leave. I feel proud and privileged to be able to contribute to something bigger than me. So yes – I love working here.”
Understanding Vision and Leadership
As a business leader, if you were to sail a boat from New York to London and you called your boat “The Express” who would you hire to sail the boat. As the captain, you would most likely hire those who were strong, focused, and highly competitive.
What if you were the captain of the boat called “The Collaborative? Who would you hire to sail the boat? Most likely you would look for people who were team players. Those with good communication and people skills. You would want to make sure the team worked well with each other.
Which boat would reach London first?
It depends. The “Express” might have a strong experienced team but what if they didn’t get on well and egos got in the way. Would these dynamics cause the boat to run aground or sail off course? On the other hand, the Collaborators might be so busy building a team they lacked direction and focus.
Either one could win depending on the dynamics of the leader and the crew.
Hiring the Right People
As you can see, hiring the right people is critical. Who those people are – depends on what kind of ship you want to sail and the culture you wish to build within your organization?
I have a saying “hire on attitude and fire on attitude.“
You can teach skills, it’s much harder to teach attitude. This is one of the reasons leaving your hiring decisions to a recruitment company that uses bots to screen candidates, can be a big mistake. Bots search keywords and qualifications. They don’t search for attitude and nor can they.
When you do get in front of candidates, what you are looking to do is to determine their ability to learn quickly. Also to assess their values, through something called an innerview not an interview.
Innerview Vs Interview
We all know the standard interview questions, often they are behavior-based. An innerview is different (no I haven’t misspelled the word). These are questions that strike at the heart of a person. These questions uncover a person’s deeper thoughts, values, and sense of wellbeing.
To hire the right people for your “boat”, firstly look at your own values and the values of your organization. Then structure questions in the interview process that can identify what a candidate’s values are. You can achieve this by asking value-based questions.
Here are some examples value-based questions you could ask.
- Have you ever faced an ethical dilemma in the workplace? For example, if you saw a colleague stealing stationery from the company’s stock, what would you do?
- Who is a leader living or dead you admire and why?
- Give me an example of how you handled a situation where you had to work with a person you didn’t get along with?
- Describe a situation where you had to work within a team environment to complete a project. What was your contribution?
- Describe a job you wouldn’t do or a company you wouldn’t work for and why?
Ability to Handle change
- Describe a time when change was forced upon you and you had to adapt suddenly.
Ability to Handle Conflict
- Tell us about a time you were faced with conflict. What was the cause of the conflict and how did you handle it?
- Describe a situation where you were facing a technical or process problem. How did you go about resolving it?
- Describe a time you had to deal with an irate customer. What was the situation and how did you deal with it?
- Describe a time where you made a mistake. How did you go about rectifying the mistake?
Ability to Face Challenges
- Tell us about a time when you had to face adversity. How did you overcome the obstacles?
Similar to behavioral questions, value-based questions allow you to dig deeper into a candidate’s value system. This enables you to assess if that candidate will adapt to the culture of your organization.
Learning to lead, learning to run a business is no easy task. It takes time and education to transform yourself into the leader you want to be. It all starts with learning how to hire and manage people. It is your communication and people skills that separate the wheat from the chaff.
To find out how you stack up as a leader. You never know what others see that you don’t see yourself. This kind of feedback is not always negative, perhaps you have great attributes and talents you weren’t even aware of.
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