Day 2 of the ‘Create your Impact Team’ workshop, focuses on job interviews and thinking about how to integrate your new employee(s) or even business partner(s) in one’s operations. While I have observed some creativity sparking in some of the question and answer sessions were I was the ‘defendant’ – none of them taking place in Germany – I participated in on-boarding activities which stretched from brain washing over party schemes to holistic and full-blown team building systems.
Unfortunately, dull standard procedures – the same old – seem to be hardwired in most HR managers’ brains. Perhaps as a consequence, I rarely saw much innovation happening among my participants. But, who knows, maybe there is hope and I will read a comment on this post, proving me wrong. I am keen to learn what could be done better to construct a conducive workshop environment, which allows those creative sparks to spread more widely and frequently.
- Icebreaker (10 minutes)
- Input (20 minutes)
- Interviews (40 minutes)
- Team building (40 minutes)
- Conclusion (10 minutes)
I enjoy ice breaker interview questions in small groups, which are fun and funny. Depending on the context, but talking about vacation destination is always a good way to get started. For instance:
- If you could choose one vacation destination, what would it be and why?
- If you are stranded on a deserted island, which three items would you be taking along?
This can be done quickly by writing it down on meta cards individually and disclosing the answers in the plenum. Or, alternatively, as a group challenge. For this, more time should be allocated, as the teams have to negotiate which ONE location and THREE items to choose for the entire team.
Similarly to day one, I enjoy sharing some of my experiences and bad judgments when it came to employment choices. For a long while, I mistakenly assumed that I am the one on the spot – the defendant as termed above. However, it is a two way street, you as an interviewee are also allowed to ask questions. In fact, you should be entitled to be diligent, straightforward, and critical. After all, they are the ones searching and you are the one they are looking for, or why are you there?
Diligence is the mother of good luck
How proud we have been being recruited straight from the campus? What an exhilarating feeling to score that ‘dream’ job effortlessly? It was cool, I admit! In particular, as it had been my second turn, while I was stranded for six months on an unforgiving job market after I completed my first Masters five years’ earlier. Also, as the person hiring me was kind and, up to this day, I refer to him as one of my mentors.
What I was not though is diligent about the job itself and inspecting the ones I would be working with. The parent company and its inspiring director were based in the U.K.; the post, however, in India. When I had returned from Costa Rica, I spent about a month in a lovely village in England, learned about my boss’ goals and ambitions. We also used the time until my visa was processed to discuss what should be done when I would have reached Bangalore.
It started off well, I was welcomed, provided with accommodation – albeit in the middle of nowhere – and introduced to some fun interns and local staff; who were working in nearby schools. I learned that my target district is about a 2 hours’ drive through the city and that my counter-part was busy. However, he had left a note that I should use the time upon his return to get settled in. So I did; for two weeks. After which I felt more grounded then established and feeling the need to reach out to the U.K. asking to put some pressure on that first meeting.
When it happened, I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was fishy. Questions about finances, operations (e.g., location), or strategies remained unanswered and enquiries about progress contested with ever greater stories and heartwarming excuses. Details were about to follow, though not much to my surprise, they never did! Some more weeks’ would pass, some more cries asking for help followed, yet, all rescue attempts resulted in frustrations and withdrawal.
So, I made an executive decision and removed myself from the equation. Leaving with a bang, a final, hefty discussion with my boss – who couldn’t believe what I was reporting. Fortunately, which is why I mentioned that he is up to this date a mentor and friend, he is a reasonable man. It took him a few months, but, eventually I received a call and had to hear about the funds and all what had been invested being lost. We still do not know what happened exactly, but somehow, we fell prey to a scam. One that was meticulously planned for over a year and we are just some of the victims. Perhaps, I could have seen it coming, maybe if I have had a closer look in what I was actually getting into? Maybe?
A leader is admired, a boss is feared
This one is a story from my corporate life and the marathon like interview processes nowadays seemingly being commonplace. If it helps or more hinders an open exchange between parties; I am not here to say, but I would put my bets on the latter. Because, being diligent seems difficult, as one would assume that after months’ of torture one should have touched all the bases. Though, that is, if you as an interviewee had the guts to ask the right questions or be given the opportunity.
It started with a random application, which I had all forgotten about when I received the first phone call. I was making up things on the fly; how could I have answered a single question, without knowing what position we were actually talking about. Though, it somehow seemed enough and so I was invited to come to Bonn for a first meeting.
By the time I reached, I had made sure to locate the job description and prepare myself; well, I would like to add. The interview went great and I was able to cover my tracks being unemployed for six months after graduating from my MBA program. Though, I think those times in between – not talking about those glorified gap years – are just normal and oftentimes necessary. Nevertheless, I still lied and rather discussed how I used my time to certify myself as a personal body building trainer; which actually did. What I did not disclose, however, was that I did so to embark on a plane to Australia and not just because.
It didn’t show, or perhaps, nobody cared. Thus, I left and soon found myself back in a two days assessment center. Working on case studies had become an easy undertaking and on the face of it being the only candidate, didn’t lower my confidence. So, why bother asking any questions? Leaving the place one more time poisoned with self-assurance that I soon would be returning more regularly.
The last meeting with the human resource manager and my ‘boss’, the one calling me up the first time, was just about ticking boxes. The salary was amazing – which it actually wasn’t compared to my peers I was about to meet – and work conditions couldn’t be any better; at least in that very moment. What I did not know at the time, or asked, is that the gentleman I had gotten to know over those months, was not going to be my line manager. There was yet another one I never had or was given the chance to meet – for good reason as it turned out.
The years’ that followed weren’t terrible, just the guy who was trying to lead. He was bossy and by no way a leader; neither naturally nor by trying. He mistrusted each and every one of us and always put himself first. Traits I was and still not able to endure much longer than I did. Perhaps, one of the reasons why this was my last post in a corporate environment – where one is just one of too many and managers care more about themselves then inspiring the ones they are supposed to lead to excellence. In his excuse, it was also his first and last assignment as a manager.
The teams will have prepared an interview based on a case study, a role description, which should have been distributed on the conclusion of the first day of this workshop. For further reference, I am outlining a manager role I was recruiting for a sport for development charity I managed back in the day, with the following responsibilities:
- Deliver Sport and Play sessions to young people across the country towards grant requirements
- Establish a partnership network among youth sport clubs and youth organizations
- Recruit for and lead expeditions in established partnership networks
- Manage fundraising activities for all aforementioned responsibilities
- Manage all locally-related operations
- Supervise interns and local office volunteers as assigned by Managing Director
Similar to what I mentioned under the profiling section on day one, I was looking for a candidate that had something more to offer than her/his educational background. Indeed, candidates with a coaching qualification were not rejected, but I had agreed with the board that those formalities could be met on the job. Here is what we were looking for:
- Knowledge about local youth sport clubs and/or youth organizations
- Working with young people (desirable)
- Delivering sport and/or play activities in disadvantaged areas (desirable)
- Managing volunteers to deliver activity sessions (desirable)
- Motivation to empower young people through sport & play
- Value-drive coaching and leadership style
- Able to promote charity’s voluntary opportunities and inspire trainees
- Work within established procedures, guidelines and quality standards
- Personal traits
- Willingness to learn
- Work with minimum supervision
Most practice interview sessions I have witnessed thus far, were nowhere close to the Heineken spot, which you may have shown the participants on day one. In my opinion, the role in itself gives plenty of room for creativity. For instance, the candidate could plan a quick sport and play session. Alternatively, explaining a critical situation and have the applicant explain how s/he would deal with the situation. Beyond some games, I prepared an interview guide for the position as follows:
Areas of interest / what I want to hear:
- Coaching style: should be value-/driven, sport as a means to an end, empowering and facilitative
- Local network: Well-connected and respected, shows enthusiasm and pro-active behavior
- Fundraising: Be autonomous, self-driven, realistic about the challenges a charity our size faces
- Leadership: Assertive and strong character, can relate to people from disadvantaged backgrounds
- Future: Be aware that the role may be discontinued depending on funding, realistic and personal
Questions to cover areas of interest:
- Coaching style
- How do you interpret our slogan, ‘inspiring young people through the power of sport & play’?
- How, if so, have you inspired or developed in the past?
- Do you have any evidence that supports your perception?
- Wales network
- From what you know about us; how do you develop a partnership with other youth clubs?
- How much do you know about youth organizations around here?
- Have you ever worked, participated or otherwise been in touch with those organizations?
- From what you know, how would you assess our role in the community?
- Why would a donor support our activities, given how little we have been active locally?
- Have you ever been involved in any fundraising activities? If not, what do you think it is like?
- What do you think you will get out of this experience?
- Who do you think would be your main stakeholders?
- How do you arrange your other commitments?
- What do you think would it take to continue your assignment?
- What do you expect from me and us in order to support this?
- What can you provide to make it happen?
The final task of the day, is meant to round up the recruitment process, to integrate your new ‘employees’ or even welcome a business partner to the team (if there is one by the time). The approach is, depending on the number of people and level of recruitment, very different. Perhaps, a CO-CEO will be welcomed during a dinner party, which might not be a direct part of the workshop; though I am not saying you couldn’t go out with the participants after the workshop.
What I am looking for, are fun and funny outdoor exercises, if the environment allows, which makes your team stronger. Additionally, this should also be about conveying your company’s values. Though, you might argue that there are no values or a mission as yet, as there is no company or it is to new. I would contest, however, that each business idea needs to be based on the founders’ personal values. Those are your good idea criteria and the reason why you are going down this path in first place.
In conclusion, what we were looking for are creative approaches to recruit, integrate, and welcome the impact team you want. While knowing what you do not know is important for yourself and investors, understanding what you are looking for is similar vital. Recruitment processes are anything, but easy, and sometimes we fall prey to bias and ambiguity. However, admitting a mistake or even laying off people is also part of the game, no matter how hard that might be.
Which is why I conclude such workshops with team building exercises. It is an important element throughout the lifetime of an organization. Entities keep forgetting about constantly motivating employees and reiterating their importance. People might start withdrawing without you as a manager noticing. Spending time off-the job is as important as being on it. Actually, I believe that the best employees come late and go early.