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The Most Important Thing We Do

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Our Most Important Job


C. Todd Porter | Vice President & General Manager


Have you ever thought about what the single most important job as a manager is?  I believe our #1 job is to hire the absolute best people we can.  We need to hire not just any people, but the best people for the position.

our #1 job is to hire the absolute best people we can.

Every manager I know has had a few hires, or several, they’d like to forget.  It is downright painful when I think about a few of mine.  My process for hiring has evolved continuously for years and continues to this day with a singular goal in mind.  That goal is to continuously improve at getting it wrong less often.  I could say the goal is to get it right every single time.  But, no matter how much improvement is made and how hard we work at getting it right, sometimes it turns out to just not be a great fit.

The first thing that has to happen to get headed in the right direction is we need to know exactly what we want in a new teammate.  We need to decide what are the traits or values that make it possible for us to get it right most often.

When we interview potential candidates for the first time, we have a very narrow objective we are trying to accomplish.  We don’t try to find out much else.  We want to know if that person meets two specific criteria to move on to be considered for additional interviews.  If they do, barring any unforeseen circumstance, they move on to the next round.

they a person of character

First, we have to know they a person of character.  A person of character has a sound moral compass.  This is critical in how they make the decisions.  Our operation relies on freedom and accountability.  We want people who to feel empowered to take initiative and action yet possess the courage to PHYSICALLY TAKE ACTION…not just feel they are allowed to.  If we are hiring smart people who can solve problems, a solid foundation for making decisions is critical.  A person of character will always put their teammates, customers and company ahead of personal gain.  It’s critical to ask questions designed to reveal this trait.

they are a continuous improver.

Second, we have to be convinced they are a continuous improver.  A person who is actively engaged in improving themselves and their skills is essential.  This person is a lifelong learner. They recognize if they aren’t growing, they are regressing and there is not a middle ground. This person acknowledges that personal development is habitual and welcomes failure because they’ve acquired its painful but necessary taste.  This person usually reads books.  They can tell you in specifics the big mistakes they’ve made and the valuable lessons they learned from those mistakes.  We are expected to do better every year.  The best way to hit that mark consistently is to improve in every way possible.  A building full of these people makes life simpler.  They find a way to get to where they need to be to have success and surround themselves with others that hold them accountable.

If you can find candidates that fit these first two criteria, you are setting yourself up for success.  Get over this hurdle and a host of concerns are alleviated on the front end.

In the second round of interviews, we’re trying to drill down on aptitude for the job, culture fit, being a team player and coachability.   Coachability could be the most important quality of all, especially if we miss the mark on the hire.  If we have a strong development program or culture, the right hire can be coached up in the right direction to ultimately be successful.  They must be able to take coaching.  That means not only the ability handle a continuous feedback loop, but to implement the coaching for better results.

They must have the skills and ability to develop in a way that fits the position in question.  It’s not enough to get the right people on the bus.  You have to get the right people into the right seats on the bus.[1]  We must be able to clearly articulate those core values and culture throughout the hiring process. They must be as apparent as the brown color painted on our poles.  They must buy into the core values and culture that we intentionally foster and develop.  They must be a team player who can fit into what we already have in the building.

If we are concerned about any of these things, we have two choices.  Interview them again and be frank about our concerns or cut them.  We tend to side toward the former but have certainly done the latter depending on how concerned we are.

One last step we consistently execute is called a pre-mortem.  We do this no matter how much we believe we’ve found the right person.  We simply ask and debate a simple question.  If this candidate were to come here and fail, what would that look like?  It’s a simple question that is not easy to answer if you have a great candidate.  Hashing this out is as close to a failsafe as you can get.  When we feel satisfied that we’re on to a good answer, we bring the candidate back in and present it to them.  If they are the person you believe them to be, they will alleviate your concerns and you have your new hire.

Finally, do not compromise.  If you are settling for somebody you think isn’t the best fit because you are in a hurry, that’s a mistake waiting to happen.  If we buy into the idea that it’s this important to get right, patience is your friend.  Keep searching until you are truly excited about a candidate.

I don’t believe we motivate anybody.  Experience and research tell me we need to find self-motivated people and give them autonomy, meaning and mastery.

I don’t believe we motivate anybody.  Experience and research tell me we need to find self-motivated people and give them autonomy, meaning and mastery.[2]  If we give them the freedom to take ownership of their job, a great reason to do it, and the resources they need to get better at it every day, everything will take care of itself.

There are many great books on the topic.  The following are a few resources that could help you improve your hiring process:

  1. Drive by Dan Pink
  2. The Ideal Team Player by Patrick Lencioni
  3. Good to Great by Jim Collins

We win or we lose the moment we offer a job to a candidate.  It’s the single most important thing we do.  There is no decision as a manager that affects the long-term health of your organization more than the people you bring in the building.  Our way may not be what you think is best.  I want to encourage you, whatever you think is best, to always try and continuously improve the way you do it.  After all, it is the most important thing we do.

[1] Good to Great by Jim Collins

[2] Drive by Dan Pink

Todd Porter
Vice President and General Manager
Lamar Advertising of San Bernardino-Riverside
D: 909.454.7304Lamar.com







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