Gary Allison's Leadership Blog

July 2006


Leadership21 Jul 2006 10:25 pm

Lately, I’ve been interviewing to fill an open management position. Clearly these are positions of the utmost importance in that a great hire will push the team farther and higher, while a bad hire can be disastrous.

I’ve put together some question (but not all in case you’re next) I’ve used, and hope they are of help to you.What does a manger do? This will generate lots of conversation. Looking beyond the technical to an understanding of the business environment willingness to get up close with a customer and truly understand their need ability to ask the hard questions, whether with marketing/sales, or with software engineers. Above all someone who embodies characteristics of servant leadership. How do you distinguish between top performers and above average performers? What are some examples of how you have rewarded these top performers? Looking for bonuses, creative recognition, and monetary recognition that clearly separates the top performers.What has been your highest performing team? What made them that way? Looking for people who give credit rather than take credit.What has been the most difficult situation you’ve encountered in mgmt? What would you do different about it if you relived it today? Amazing what you can learn here. If they can’t think of one, they are not being honest or don’t have any real world experience!Have you ever needed to manage an employee out of the business for performance reasons? Describe this process.What gets you excited?What would your goals be for the first week on the job? (I know it is such a stock question, but its still a good one).What agile development processes have you used? Where were they successful and where were there problems?What qualities do you look for when you hire? (what I’d like to hear is: willingness to go the extra mile (commitment), examples of driving issues/opportunities all the way through closure, even outside of normal channels (ownership), demonstrated ability to innovate, someone that works well within a team and demonstrates a fair amount of personal leadership.So, how long have you had that wart? (just seeing if you are paying attention)

Leadership21 Jul 2006 02:50 am

It just amazes me the creative and inventive ways people use to avoid goal setting.    Believe me, I’ve seen it all.  When it comes right down to it, most people would just rather not be held accountable.  And, to some degree, this is understandable.  Life is full of the unexpected – and software is a great example.  There are new technologies, new toolkits, new platforms, and just plain new stuff all the time!  Who can say in any degree of certainty, how long something will take.  If you are truly certain, then you’re probably not working on anything very interesting.

But, beware of the one who continually avoids commitment.  Enough said.

About measurement. … A goal is only worthwhile if you measure, reward, and learn from it.  If you are setting goals using a process like SCRUM, goal measurement is fairly clear.  I love this process because it provides daily feedback and peer-to-peer accountability of the type not possible to deliver hierarchically from management.  It just means so much more coming from your comrades in arms. At the organizational level, I’m a huge proponent of setting high level vision goals at a functional level each quarter of things that need to get done, and then validating these with each team.  Once each team develops the detailed goals supporting the vision goals, we can validate they’re achievable, refine them, and make them more specific. This reminds me, sometime I really need to blog on what it is like to develop software for Japanese customers.  I wonder… can my career survive that much honesty….