Likability Equals Compatibility: Matching Candidates' Personalities to Your Organization's Corporate Culture

STATISTICALLY, ABOUT 80 PERCENT of all hires in corporate America are based on a personality match—how well the two people get along and immediately establish rapport with each other. We all tend to hire in our own image, so when we see someone who appears to think and act as we do, we often build a case in our minds for finding reasons to make that placement happen. Our immediate comfort and confidence create a feeling that this person will bring out the best in us and that work will become a lot more bearable with a soul mate to share the burden.

Sometimes we see candidates whom we admire for having achieved accomplishments that we wish we had ourselves, so we become inclined to delve more deeply into their backgrounds to see how they attained that brass ring that s eluded us thus far. Maybe the person graduated from Harvard. Perhaps the individual has an MBA in finance, which still remains only a distant dream for you. Or possibly he worked at a very highprofile company where you always wanted to work. Whatever the cause of these immediate attractions and affinities, it is important to understand that these are all totally natural human responses that bond us to others very quickly.

Unfortunately, too many managers in business today use this likability factor as the prime criterion for bringing someone aboard. They regretfully admit later down the road that they ''felt it in their gut that a certain candidate would make a successful contribution to the company, only to find out later that the person's management approach or technical orientation wasn't compatible with their style or the organization's needs. So, is it wrong to hire on the basis of initial gut feelings and personal affinities? Absolutely not. But it is certainly a mistake to make decisions solely on a likability factor without employing other diagnostic, more objective, tools in the selection process.

The purpose of this topic is to supply you with such diagnostic, impersonal tools to help you clearly delineate your needs and a candidate's potential solution to the immediate challenges you're facing. Therefore, you're cautioned to rely on your gut feelings only after you've objectively diagnosed the candidate. The bottom line to keeping your gut feelings in check is that initial likability must be matched by future compatibility—compatible business styles, management techniques, and tolerance capacities. Then, once you've determined the individual's approach to work, you can evaluate where you'll complement each other and balance each other out.

What kind of mentoring and training style do you have? Do you naturally delegate responsibilities, or do you expect your direct reports to come to you for added responsibilities?

Why Ask This Question?

Some people inherently have a high level of interest in training and motivating others. They are naturals at teaching and derive a psychic income'' from sharing their expertise and helping others grow. These types of managers often speak of the excellent mentors who guided them through their own careers, and they now see a chance to give back to others what was so generously given to them—time, patience, and guidance. Other managers readily admit to having little patience for holding other people's hands. They are independent types who expect their direct reports to operate solo. Whatever the case, you can often gauge this personal orientation via the individual's willingness to delegate responsibilities downward.

Analyzing the Response

Compatibility in the staff development area is critical because coworkers in discord about the amount of time to spend mentoring others will sooner or later have a falling out. Training is the largest drain on time in business, and if you disagree with someone you hire about the priority level that staff training should receive, then you'll more than likely be at odds regarding project completion dates and work flow continuity.

In general, there are two types of delegators in business. People who are more control-oriented typically have a need to hold on to their possessions— whether that is power, information, or authority. They are very often uncomfortable passing responsibility down the line for fear that they will later be challenged by a subordinate with ideas for getting things done differently. Perhaps there is a fear that if they do not hold all the cards at any given point in time, they may be faced with a question to which they have no answer—obviously an uncomfortable position that would test anyone s feelings of insecurity. Of course, these traits don t necessarily make anyone a bad manager; they just make it more difficult for subordinates to exert autonomy and independent decision making.

Reciprocally, individuals who consistently pass responsibilities down the line—and who operate from more of a shared, participatory management style based on consensus building—naturally offer subordinates more opportunities for creative self-expression and empowerment. Such managers often employ policies of openness in information sharing, a greater sense of partnership with their coworkers, and increased accountability.

Still, you have to be aware that managers who too readily pass responsibilities down the line may sometimes be criticized for delegating work that rightfully belongs on their own desks. In addition, you could end up with chaos on your hands by injecting this type of manager into a department that needs more autocratic rules. Decentralized power placed into the hands of a loosely formed, immature team of workers will necessitate that you step in to impose the discipline that the team lacks. In short, you'll end up managing a high-need problem unit with a departmental head who is not well suited to that team s needs.

Again, there is no right or wrong delegation style, but simply a level of success associated with that manager s ability to motivate and empower staff to reach a department s goals. If this question successfully delivers the information you want, you'll be better able to identify various types of managerial candidates: those who keep their people on a short leash and who oversee even the minute aspects of a given project and those who expect their people to assume additional responsibilities without asking permission. That is, you'll differentiate the more autocratic controller (who will guarantee a targeted output) from the enlightened manager (capable of creating an empowered, creative worker team). Both brands of management may dedicate themselves to making your company more efficient and profitable; it's simply a matter of how to get there.

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