How Do You Decide Whom to Hire? - David DeWolf

How Do You Decide Whom to Hire?

When faced with two equally-qualified candidates, how do you determine whom to hire?

When faced with a difficult decision — two equally qualified candidates — how do you decide which one to hire? I’d be remiss if I didn’t answer that the ultimate decision should come back to a values fit. Is there a cultural fit within the organization?

But let’s assume for a moment there is, because if there’s isn’t, you shouldn’t even be having this hard conversation. There’s nothing to weigh. Non-value fits should be thrown out immediately, at the beginning or whenever you discover the person’s not a fit.

So assuming they’re equally qualified and equally great culture fits for the organization, how would I make that decision? Quite simply, for me it comes back to passion. I look for the person who is the most passionate, the most excited, the most aggressive. I look for the person who wants the role, who shows a genuine, innate desire to perform at high levels.

Passion will help you get through the tough times. Passion helps when things get rocky. Passion will help motivate when you need to go the extra mile. Passion, above anything else I’ve seen, is the soft skill that can push somebody to be great and can push somebody to the next level of competence, to the next level in their career, to be an incredibly high performer.

Question: How do you answer this? Faced with two candidates, equally qualified, how do you determine whom you’ll hire? I’d love to hear from you! You can leave a comment by clicking here. Learn to live an integrated life with humble confidence. Get it Now

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You Need Vision to Make the Right Pivot - David DeWolf

Why You Need Vision to Make the Right Pivot in Your Business

I am continually amazed at how many entrepreneurs lack vision. Many possess a great idea. Some have discovered a new invention. And many more have found a market that is ripe for disruption.

But very few dream. They are unable to see down the road and paint a picture of what they will become. They struggle to paint the picture of the world as they see it – five, ten, or even twenty years down the road.

Michael was no different.

“I stumbled into Starbucks – my hands full of the cards I collected the night before. My mind was racing and my palms sweaty. Seeing that the line was long, I found a corner table where I could unload my things. I opened my laptop and started to thumb through the cards. As I did, I flashed back to the night before at the convention. I could still feel my heart beating as I shook the Senetor’s hand. I could feel my chin drop to the floor as the Committee Chairman handed me his business card.

“In a short 45 minutes I had collected at least a dozen cards, each of which had the personal contact information of a senior government official. For a political activist, this was gold.

“As I came out of my trance, I realized that the coffee line had evaporated. I got up quickly, hoping to beat the next wave of folks ready rushing to get their Sunday morning cup of joe.

“When I returned – my chin hit the floor. This time, for a very different reason. My stack of cards was gone.”

When I first met Michael Barnett, he was passionate about his invention. His story made clear why he had made it his personal mission to digitize the way business cards were collected. After sharing the history, he opened his backpack and produced a small, handheld device that was shaped as though it would fit perfectly within the curve of the human hand. A single button sat conveniently where his thumb rested. “If i push this button, my contact information will automatically transfer to your device.”

Michael, like so many entrepreneurs, began his company by solving a problem. Entrepreneurs see a need firsthand, and they invent a device or build a new system to get rid of their own pain. Many are captivated by their discovery and develop a deep sense of purpose in changing the way the world works. They want to ensure that no one else experiences their pain.

Unfortunately, very few translate this mission into a vision.

A purpose drives culture and a product solves a problem, but it is a vision that creates momentum. It is the magnetic force that pulls an organization forward and it is the guiding light from which strategy is developed.

Over the past several years I have watched as Michael has transformed his company from a device manufacturer into the premier social marketing platform for the events industry – InGo. This evolution has been grounded in the vision he was able to develop as he transitioned from inventor to leader.

He envisioned InGo technology powering the connection of conference attendees throughout the world. He could clearly describe the massive impact this virtual web could create by bringing virtual communities back together into the physical world.

Michael was unconsciously competent. He developed his vision, not as an intentional effort, but as part of an evolutionary process that he naturally followed.

Having spent the past eight years helping entrepreneurial leaders develop innovative products that disrupt industries, I have begun to recognize patterns that exist in those who are able to make the change. They typically go through the following process, much like the one that Michael went through.

They surround themselves with the best and the brightest.

Inventions are often created in a lab. Innovations are made in society. Entrepreneurs that cross the bridge from inventor to leader seek out the best and the brightest minds to collaborate with. They find mentors and teammates with a diverse set of expertise. They surround themselves with talented comrades – often times those that are even more talented then themselves – and they seek to learn as much as they can from them.

They gather information from disparate sources.

As successful entrepreneurs begin to surround themselves with talented individuals, they recognize the value of the insights they are receiving and they begin to seek out more and more. They are naturally curious, ask a lot of questions, begin to read more often, and find more ways to gather intelligence. They collect myriads of information across a wide variety of related fields and sources and many of them provide context regarding how their invention may be used, adapted, or become mainstream.

They value finding the right answer more than being right.

Entrepreneurs are notoriously stubborn, but, successful entrepreneurs are also dedicated to success. While they remain committed to their mission, they begin to develop a hypothesis around what their company might become. They begin to imagine the future, and incubate ideas of how their company might look in the future based upon the data-points that they have collected. They begin to see into the future and paint a picture of how they will succeed.

They develop the 3 sights of vision.

As this initial painting is incubated within the entrepreneur’s head the 3 sights of vision begin to emerge. The first is “foresight”. This is the ability to see how the world is evolving and predict where it’s going to be. Second is “insight” – the ability to identify the unique assets available to the entrepreneur that can be used to participate in and push forward the changes that will the entrepreneur believes will occur. And finally, is crossight. This is a hypothesis about how the company will interact with others within the space and integrate with the ecosystem that either already exists or will ultimately emerge.

They continually paint, refine, and expand the vision.

It is at this point, once the 3 sights emerge, that the entrepreneur has found a robust vision. Successful entrepreneurs begin to share their vision by painting a clear picture to everyone who will listen. In doing so, they gather more and more feedback, refine their hypothesis and expand their vision. This continual cycle builds momentum and creates a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Many in the lean startup world would correctly recognize InGo’s transformation as a series of “pivots.” What these same folks would likely miss is that these pivots would have proven fruitless without a vision. A pivot requires that one foot is firmly grounded while the other moves. Without that foundation, you are simply spinning your wheels.

InGo is a great example. It’s mission has not changed, but, the vision has undoubtedly evolved and the strategy pivoted around it in order to ensure success.

Entrepreneurs must learn how to create a compelling vision. A clear vision is the basis for successfully navigating a market.  Surround yourself with exceptional talent, collect information, value finding the right answer, develop the 3 sights of vision, and continually paint your vision for others, and then rinse and repeat. It’s not easy, but it’s simple.

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Beyond Hiring Biases to Build Great Teams - David DeWolf

Challenging the Typical Hiring Biases and Building Great Teams

A recent article in Forbes challenged entrepreneurs to limit their hiring to senior developers, a practice that runs counter to the conventional wisdom of so many organizations.

While good intentioned and directionally correct, the piece falls short on logic.

The foundation for the argument seems to be based upon “the method that he implemented five years ago when he launched Smartling with cofounder Jack Welde: ‘find the right people and keep them motivated’.”

There’s no doubt that getting the right people on the bus is essential to any business. I agree wholeheartedly. But when did “the right people” translate into “senior developers”? I see two flaws in this thinking.

Seniority (years of experience) plays a role in one’s capabilities, but it does not tell the whole story.

My first management job was two years out of school. I took over the leadership of a small, high performing team of “senior” developers. One teammate, in particular, had 20 years of experience, a PhD and a resume that boasted of her “seniority.” I learned the hard way that this seniority didn’t translate into her ability to produce. Within six weeks it was obvious that there was one team member not pulling her weight and I was forced to let her go from the team.

On the flip side, several years ago, near the beginning of the 3Pillar run, I hired a junior developer who was one year out of school. This individual may have been one of the most talented, productive and innovative team members I’ve ever seen in action. He literally pulled the weight of multiple developers. He was inexperienced but had wisdom beyond his years.

Seniority is not the only measure of talent.

A group of “senior developers” doesn’t translate into a high performing team.

You don’t field a baseball team with nine shortstops. All nine shortstops may be the best athletes, but they won’t win the ballgame. You don’t field a basketball team with a bunch of veterans. You need to mix in some youth to make sure you have the legs left to get through the season.

The same goes for building software products. The right mix of talent, experience, creativity, passion, and, yes, even wild-ass, crazy naive ideas is important.

I have seen teams struggle to innovate because everyone wanted to lend experience and nobody wanted to think outside the box. I have seen teams struggle because everyone wanted to make design decisions and nobody wanted to implement new configurations. The right mix of folks is essential.

So, what is the right mix?

There is no cookie cutter answer, but it’s likely not an entire team of “senior developers,” nor is it the traditional “leveraged triangle.”

In my experience, the most innovative product engineering teams require a well led with deep experience, a small handful of senior developers to collaborate, lend their experience and challenge assumptions, a sprinkling of productive developers to fuel throughput, and a sharp, passionate all-star that’s a little wet behind the ears.

Question: What does your experience tell you? How do you create high performing teams? I’d love to hear from you! You can leave a comment by clicking here. Learn to live an integrated life with humble confidence. Get it Now

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Why an Open Door Policy Needs More - David DeWolf

Why an Open Door Policy Needs More than an Open Door

Last week I visited the 3Pillar team in India and attempted to disrupt the status quo.

My typical visit to India includes a series of meetings – both one-on-one and with various teams. I eat meals with the management team and try to squeeze in as much time as possible to go around and talk with the teams. Unfortunately, the majority of my time is behind closed doors. There are just too many things to catch up on given that I’m only there twice per year.

This visit, I was determined to be different. I refused to pack my schedule. I agreed in advance to only schedule one meeting and one day with the press.

As I arrived, I noticed the typical sign on the corner office door. “Reserved for Mr. David DeWolf.” It was at that moment that I realized that I had little or no reason for that office because of my schedule. I made an impromptu decision that proved to be a game changer. I decided not to use it, and instead to sit at various locations with the team.

The results were amazing.

Midway through Thursday, one of our employees approached me as I caught up on email — while sitting amongst the people.

“I wanted to come check on you. On Tuesday, when you arrived, you looked different than your normal self. I was afraid that there was something going on with the business or that our pipeline was not strong. You looked very stressed out. I figured it was my job as your teammate to check on you and see if everything is well.”

After I explained that I was simply jet lagged and had slept very poorly, I realized the power of what had just happened. Someone who had never approached me before was willing to come address me and show genuine concern — all because I made myself physically approachable. This gave me an opportunity to answer this concern directly and, more importantly, understand how I had come across.

Throughout the week, I had several examples like this. One employee invited and hosted me for dinner. Another joined our group as we toured the Taj Mahal on Saturday before our flight. Several more opened up at our annual party, and I can count at least three different 10-minute “stairway” conversations I was able to have. Through these I learned a lot about what we can improve on and how well our teams are doing.

I left for India with an open door policy that I think most people respect. I left from India having learned an important lesson. Don’t just open the door — tear down the walls. Because I did, I was able to connect with and learn more about our folks than I ever would have from within that corner office.

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Dealing with Obnoxious Comments - David DeWolf

4 Steps for Dealing with Obnoxious Comments

I stopped, suddenly, as I read the next question. My blood began to boil. The hair stood up on the back of my neck. I simply couldn’t believe my eyes. I read it again.

“Six kids? Regardless of your profession, it’s impossible to be a good parent to six kids. Not enough hours in the day.”

I quickly skipped down to the answer. How would Phillip Rivers, the NFL quarterback with 6 kids, answer the question?

As you’d expect, he stepped up into the pocket. A quick joke about diapers moves him away from danger. He then hits his receiver right between the numbers – following up the the joke by bragging about his wife and promoting a few of the merits of a large (by today’s standards) family.

It’s a two-year rotation: Once the diapers come off of one, we usually have a newborn. And we have another one on the way, due in October. I help when I can, but my wife, Tiffany, is the key. My big, growing family keeps everything balanced and grounded. My oldest is 11 now, and the kids are getting into football. They’re Daddy’s biggest fans, and they don’t get on you as bad as most fans. If you throw an interception, they still love you.

As parents of six ourselves, Teresa and I have heard our fair share of similar questions. Some are fairly innocent. “Wow, you have your hands full.” Others attempt to be funny, but border on being rude. “You know how that happens, right?” Still others, like Philip’s questioner, can’t help but insert their negative opinion.

As a result, I’ve become quite adept at dealing with obnoxious comments. What Phillip did so gracefully has undoubtedly come from years of practice. Here’s a quick four-step formula for successfully defusing obnoxious comments.

Take a deep breath

Nothing good ever comes by saying the first thing that comes to mind. Take a deep breath, collect your composure, and be the bigger man.

Tell a joke

Making light of the situation will immediately defuse the situation.

Divert the attention

The last thing you want is a personal battle with your adversary. Focus the conversation on someone else. Boost someone else up as the hero.

Promote the benefits

Don’t let it go without making your point. Instead of ripping apart the other person’s argument, speak to the benefits of your approach.

Following this proven formula may not make you a pro-bowl quarterback, but, it will help you navigate sticky situations.

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How I'm Going to Lose the Scrooge - David DeWolf

How I’m Going to Lose the Scrooge

I have a confession: I absolutely hate Christmas. Well, it’s not really Christmas that I hate. It’s setting up for Christmas that I hate.

I’m not kidding that the worst date of my year is the first day of Advent, the day my wife loves to set up the Christmas decorations. Getting the tree is hard enough: I don’t care if it’s a fake one or a real one. Strapping it to the roof and setting it up, putting the stupid branches in: it’s just a pain. It’s hard.

But what makes it worse is the lights. The damn strings of lights never work. You plug them in, you jiggle the light, and you can’t figure out which one is causing the string to be out. Every year, it seems I have to buy a new string. And every year, there’s another string that doesn’t work.

It drives me insane. It just gets under my skin.

Know who you are. I know this about myself and after three years of ruining this day of our lives, I’m planning to make sure that I lose the Scrooge.

I’ve also learned that I have to do something different. Last year, I tried to will my way through it. I told myself it was going to be the best year yet. And it was the worst.

So, I’ve decided to change it up. This year, we’re inviting friends over to set up for us. Well, with us, but I’m going to simply not get involved. I’m going to do what I can handle, but when it comes to the lights, I’m leaving myself out.

You see, I have a friend who loves, loves, LOVES this day. In fact, it’s his favorite day of the year.

So I’m going to be in charge of the fireplace. I’m going to be in charge of the snacks and the food and the beer. And I’m going to be in charge of making sure the football game’s on.

And he gets to set up the Christmas tree for us and for my wife. Knowing myself is going to allow me to have a much better day.

Question: Do you know yourself? Do you prevent yourself from getting in your own way? Do you allow yourself to lose the Scrooge so you can become a better person? I’d love to hear from you! You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Be intentional and go do something greater than yourself.

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