Nolop: We all know that a lateral move may be the best way for someone to get more well-rounded. It’s their best career move. On the other hand, the new generation wants instant gratification. They want to be promoted. And as the job market gets better, there will be more competition from companies offering them promotions. How are you addressing the problem?
Lange: People won’t leave — even for better pay or a higher title — if you let them use their strengths so that they shine, and give them a pass on weaknesses that aren’t holding them back, instead of trying to force them to be better at something they weren’t created to do.
Sometimes we forget how much influence we can have on someone with a simple handwritten thank-you. I still have such a note that was written to me 30 years ago. You don’t throw those things away.
LeClair: If you have three or four layers between you and your field staff or transactional people, you really need visibility into how your direct reports are managing them. Make sure they are mimicking your standards and expectations. The newer generations aren’t keen on micromanagement. They’re focused on having a certain level of creativity and bandwidth to move around and ebb and flow with the next opportunity and issue.
Nolop: As Cliff Lange mentioned earlier, interpersonal relationships are as important as technical and analytical skills, or more so. How do you develop those soft skills?
Boykin: For many CFOs, it’s not in our DNA, and we have to work hard at it. At my organization, we assign mentors to the high performers and high potentials to work with them to develop those skills. We’ve also used professional coaching in a few cases, which at the price, $25,000 or $30,000, is a significant investment in someone.
Khouzami: I try to bring junior-level folks to as many meetings as I can. They’re going to look around the room at people who have been successful and see their mannerisms and the way they conduct themselves.
Audience question: A company that I worked at for 20 years religiously used a behavioral tool during the interview process. Over many years [the tool] provided a very unbiased view of how well certain people will fit into certain roles. What do you think about that?
Khouzami: We use those kinds of tools — but they’re just that, tools. They don’t have the final say.
LeClair: We don’t use behavioral assessments. To see how candidates are in front of other people, I like to put them into different situations, like a meal, a group setting, and a one-on-one setting, and using intuition to get a feel for their behavioral attributes. Also, for an assessment of their technical skills, give them a sample piece of work to do. There are people who have excellent résumés but are terrible performers, and people with terrible résumés who are wonderful performers.
Lange: I’ve found four questions that give me deep insights into people. They are, one: What do you want people to say about you at your retirement dinner? Two: Tell me about a time where you overcame adversity. Three: What techniques do you find most effective for communicating with someone who is abrasive and hard to work with? And four: Tell me about a time when you kept your integrity even though it hurt.