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Use the Leadership Fractal to Hire Better People or Get a Better Job

Lou Adler

Originally published by Lou Adler on LinkedIn: Use the Leadership Fractal to Hire Better People or Get a Better Job

Most of us are familiar with fractals. These are geometric or mathematical patterns that repeat themselves regardless of scale. But most don’t realize that people exhibit similar fractals on the job. I refer to this concept as the Leadership Fractal – a set of skills and competencies that exhibit a repeating pattern growing in scope and scale.  

To determine this during the interview I start by evaluating the candidate’s major accomplishments to determine the results achieved and the process used to achieve them. This always involves the successful interaction of planning, team, technical and organizational skills.  

When done multiple times a pattern emerges revealing the consistency and quality of the work and the rate of change of growth. Collectively, this is what I call the Leadership Fractal.  And when you find it, you’ll discover it’s a great predictor of future success.  

Past Leadership is the Best Way to Predict Future Leadership

Some people say past behavior predicts future behavior. But this is only true when the jobs and the environment (e.g., pace, culture, manager, resources, etc.) are identical.

Past performance is a far better predictor of future performance when the jobs or environment are different. To do this properly you first need to define the job differently. I suggest preparing performance profiles that describe the work as a series of 6-8 performances objectives. Then use the Leadership Fractal to bridge the difference gap.

Use the 10-S Leadership Assessment Technique to Bridge Gaps in Skills and Experiences

As you compare a candidate’s major accomplishments to the performance objectives of the job consider these critical factors:

  1.  Scope. Consider the impact of the work, its focus, the size of the budget, size of the teams involved, and the person’s role.
  2. Scale. Consider the complexity of the work and the different groups the person has responsibility over.
  3. Staff. Determine who the person manages, how they are managed and developed, the quality of the people the person has hired and if the person manages managers and executives.
  4. Systems. Understand how the person uses systems and big data to manage, control and predict.
  5. Sophistication. Consider how all types of decisions are made and the types of decisions the person has made.
  6. Solutions. Ask candidates how they solved major problems and their focus on balancing the practical needs of getting things done quickly vs. eliminating long-term root cause problems.  
  7. Strategic. Determine if the person sees the big picture regardless of the size of the project. Being able to visualize and articulate a solution, even his/her approach to problem-solving, ensures strategy drives tactics and unintended consequences are avoided.
  8. Systematic. A proactive and repeatable pattern of improvement ensures projects are successfully and consistently completed on-time and on-budget.
  9. Skills. Understand how the person used his/her skills, behaviors and competencies to get the required results. It’s what people do with what they have that needs to be assessed, not just what they have.
  10. Stretch. If the jobs are getting bigger find out why. The strongest people are often assigned to handle the toughest problems. Those who want to get ahead faster volunteer for them.

Rather than look for a perfect match on skills and experiences look for a perfect match on these 10 “S” factors. This will remove the lid on quality of hire by putting a solid floor under it.

Reverse Engineer the Leadership Fractal to Get a Better Job

There is no reason job seekers can’t reverse engineer this entire process during the interview to demonstrate how their track record of past accomplishments matches the open job. Pulling it off requires these critical steps:

Conduct Discovery. You’ll need to first ask the interviewer to describe some of the major challenges in the open job. Then ask lots of questions to understand the problems, the resources available, the business constraints and the people involved. 

Prove Your “10S” Ability. You need to provide a number of examples of comparable accomplishments to convince the interviewer you’re a good match on all of the “S”s especially scope, scale, staff, skills and sophistication. As part of this provide lots and lots of specific details including names, dates, amounts and percentages. 

Sell Your Leadership Fractal . After you provide a number of examples put them all together to demonstrate your trend of growth over time and the fact that what you’ve accomplished is a great match for what they need done.

Managers use a different process to hire strangers than people they’ve worked with in the past. With acquaintances it’s based on the person’s past performance doing comparable work. If it’s a promotion it involves focusing on the person’s rate of change of growth and ability to handle stretch components of the job. Job seekers need to be sure they’re evaluated the same way. To be successful they need to take matters into their own hands. Those who can demonstrate their Leadership Fractal won’t have a problem.  

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Lou Adler (@LouA) is the CEO of The Adler Group, a consulting and training firm helping companies implement Performance-based Hiring. He's also a regular columnist for Inc. Magazine, SHRM and BusinessInsider. His new Performance-based Hiring micro-course is now available on Lynda.com. His latest book, The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired (Workbench, 2013), provides hands-on advice for job-seekers, hiring managers and recruiters on how to find the best job and hire the best people.