Framing matters

Framing and success factors.

Dave Kinnear1-On Leadership

In Tuesday’s post I discussed how leaders understand framing issues to ensure that communication is clear. This is one reason that establishing Success Factors for the positions we wish to fill is so critical. I’m a big fan of using this method of hiring established by our friends over at Impact Hiring Solutions. Some folks call the success factors by other names (SMART goals, etc.), but whatever name you use the point is to make sure you properly frame your expectations for what the job is and what success will look like.

We are hopefully moving out of the doldrums (the data say we are), at least a bit, and we begin moving from part-time employees and independent contractors to a few more full-time employees. In my mind, this is a great opportunity to being looking at how we are shaping the corporate culture and developing leaders (ourselves included of course) to understand how carefully choosing our metaphors and stories is critical to inspiring goal-achieving activities with our employees. Here’s an example of what I’m getting at in this post.

We all look at the world through windows that act as filters. They are held in place by frames that comprise our experiences, learning and fundamental organizing principles. You are an enlightened CEO and believe you have established a culture of serving the client, high levels of integrity in all things your employees do and respect for each person in the organization. It’s time to hire a new sales manager. So, you do the thing you’ve likely always done in the past – put together a job description and start collecting resumes.

I have been a sales manager in very progressive, technology oriented companies for several years. I am looking to relocate to your area and apply for the job. I “know” what a sales manager is and does; I’ve been one. You “know” what a sales manager is too, and that’s what you want to hire. Great – except, unless you are fairly unusual, you will not during the interviewing process, clearly articulate what the culture of your company is. I won’t have a chance to decide if I really “fit” in the organization until I’ve experienced it. Further, your idea of a sales manager is someone who will build long term relationships with the largest clients and who will develop the sales people reporting to that manager in such a way as to also build long term relationships and provide excellent service. While revenue is certainly important, you value relationships more and are willing to allow a long sales cycle, building for tomorrow.

As an experienced sales manager, I understand sales management as meeting revenue goals through my sales team. I’m used to a sales process focused on overcoming objections, meeting requirements and taking the order off the buyer’s desk then moving on to the next order. The only purpose of establishing a relationship is to make sure “we” are the ones to book that order, not our competition.

Well, we both used the same job title: Sales Manager. We may even have close to the same job description in terms of “duties and responsibilities” for the tactical parts of the job. We are, however, miles apart in the way in which a sales manager is expected to act in your company and how they are to treat the clients and peers. In the end, you may well decide that I just don’t “fit,” that I interviewed well but somehow didn’t turn out the way you expected. I may be feeling that this company doesn’t understand what a “real” salesperson is supposed to do and I made a mistake in joining the company. We’re both correct and both have caused the problem.

I have long contended that as business leaders, we need to find a way to make our culture quickly and accurately visible to prospective employees. One of the biggest reasons for new hires not “sticking” is that they didn’t “fit.” To me, that’s a polite way of saying, we didn’t clearly articulate what our culture is and this person didn’t have an opportunity to see how they would fit in and if our values matched their values – at least close if not exactly.

How might this go differently with proper “framing?” For one thing, on the culture issue, I will fall back to my example of a company who makes an implantable heart valve. The culture of this organization was clearly and succinctly transmitted to me when the hiring manager related the story of how the CEO insisted that from time-to-time they bring a patient in to the factory, at the company’s expense, to meet with the person on the line who made their heart-valve. The employee is reminded in an appropriate way that this patient is alive today because of the heart valve that s/he made (each valve is serialized and one person completes the assembly). There are, of course, no dry eyes in the room. And there is no doubt that the way things get done at this organization is to always put the patient first. The patient isn’t the customer by the way, the Doctor and/or Hospital is the customer. Employees know, because they hear about or witness this process, that they are never to do anything to negatively impact the quality of the product.

The CEO of this organization is very careful to manage the company culture. He does that by deliberately picking the metaphors he uses to communicate the mission and vision to his employees. That in turn flows through the organization right down to establishing the correct success factors for each position in the company. Hiring is all about determining if the prospective employee gets the culture picture and can demonstrate that s/he shares those values and can demonstrate they have experience actually achieving the exact goals in the success factors of something very similar.

I’m sure I’ll be further developing this topic of “framing” our messages to make sure we clearly communicate our vision. I believe it is critical for leaders to be able to inspire and communicate. What I’m learning is just how important it is to use carefully chosen metaphors and stories to get that done.