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Winning Leadership in Difficult Times…Developing Emotionally Intelligent Leaders

By: Maynard Brusman, Consulting Psychologists and Executive Coach

The ability to select, motivate, develop, engage and retain top people is critical to a company’s success. If you want to build a company where people love to work, you have to know how to hire and keep great people. Unfortunately, a poor hire can cost a company a great deal of money and cause undue distress and wasted time for everyone involved. Great companies and managers start with optimistic, change-resilient, and committed people whose values fit the workplace culture. Keeping great people involves creating a healthy work environment where people can use all their knowledge, creativity, and skills. Self-managed organizations create work environments where people can continuously learn and make decisions.

Sound familiar?

Believe it or not, hiring the right people can be enjoyable and fun. Managers can easily learn an innovative method of interviewing, hiring and retaining people based on a candidate’s past performance. Research in the area of emotional intelligence supports the idea that the ability to communicate effectively with others is a critical workplace core competency. The selection and assessment process is a great place to practice these skills.

The first place to start when hiring someone is to do a job analysis. Identify the critical success factors or job-specific competencies by interviewing top performers in that position.

The next step is to create a job description based on a candidate’s past performance. If you want to hire great people, first define exceptional performance. Effective job descriptions define what needs to be accomplished, not the skills and experience the candidate needs to have. Research demonstrates that the ability to accomplish desired goals is a better predictor of future performance than the candidate’s level of skills and experience. Comparable past performance is a good predictor of future accomplishment.

What is a competency?

Competencies are behaviors that distinguish effective performers from ineffective ones. Certain motives, traits, skills, and abilities are attributed to people who consistently behave in specific ways. A competency model depicts a set of desired behaviors for a particular job position or level. A competency model also implies that such behaviors are predictive of who is likely to be successful in a position or role.

Two distinct groups of competencies are assessed during any job interview.

• Job competencies are the specific skills, knowledge, and abilities required to accomplish any given task at work.

• Emotional Intelligence competencies refer to an individual’s personality or emotional makeup. They consist of habits, abilities, and skills that transfer from job to job.

Key Points for Conducting an Effective Interview:

• Successful work behavior requires a mixture of job and people skills.

• “The single best predictor of future behavior is a candidate’s past behavior.”

• Stay focused and conscious. Overcome emotional reactions and remain in control. Listen 80% of the time.

Preparation is key to a successful, effective interview:

• Do a Job Analysis. Identify critical success factors or job-specific competencies.

• Create a job description based on what work needs to be accomplished.

• Read candidate’s resume and reference letters.

• Decide how long the interview should take, generally 30-60 minutes.

• Write job-specific competency questions. Example: Tell me how you have used your computer skills to accomplish a specific business objective?

• Write Emotional Intelligence competency questions. Example: Some problems require developing a unique or different approach. Can you tell me about a time when you were able to develop such a different approach? (Inventiveness).

Indicate problem behaviors (would cause a competent person to fail) on Job Rating Sheet. Example: Unable to manage conflict

1. Decide if a work sample is necessary and how the skills should be demonstrated.

2. Incorporate valid, reliable and job-related pre-employment tests.

During the interview procedure:

3. Ask specific job skills and education competency questions that you have prepared.

4. Ask interpersonal skills competency questions. Emotional Intelligence competency questions represent approximately 70 % of any interview, supplemented by other types of questions.

5. Take notes, including any potential problem behaviors.

6. Note areas for personal and career development.

7. Call references.

8. Complete a Hiring Rating Sheet including ratings on general impression, interpersonal skills and job-specific competencies, work simulation observations, test results, references and recommendations for hire.

Hiring decision:

1. Each member of interviewing team shares analysis of candidate’s work-related competencies and other job-related data with the hiring manager and a final decision is made.

Coaching Star Performers:

The most important thing managers can do is to guide individuals to develop in ways that will prepare them for changes in their work, increase their job effectiveness and improve their value to the organization. Mangers can help people take personal responsibility for growth and continuous learning aligning personal development goals with the organization’s business goals.

Multi-rater 360-degree feedback is a powerful process for developing people, renewing organizations, supporting a cultural change, team building, promotion and succession planning, management development, building learning cultures, and implementing strategic initiatives.

Organizations are flattening hierarchies by eliminating unnecessary layers of management and putting increased emphasis on empowerment, teamwork, continuous learning, individual development, and self-management.

How to Keep an Employee Engaged?

Engaged workers produce more, make more money for the company, and create emotional engagement and loyal customers. They contribute to good working environments where people are productive, ethical and accountable. They stay with the organization longer and are more committed to quality and growth than are the other two groups of not-engaged and actively disengaged workers.

1. Employees must have a strong relationship with their manager

2. They must have clear communication from their manager

3. They need a clear path set for concentrating on what they do best

4. They need strong relationships with their coworkers

5. They must feel a strong commitment with their coworkers so that they take risks and stretch for excellence

Engaged employees tend to get the least amount of focus and attention from managers, in part because they’re doing what they are needed to do. They set goals, meet and exceed expectations and charge enthusiastically toward the next tough task.

Great managers don’t leave these excellent employees alone. They spend most of their time with the most productive and talented people because they have the most potential.

The challenge for managers comes when the first signs of disengaging appear from an engaged worker. The symptoms need to be addressed immediately or else the disconnection is most likely to continue. Most of the time this disengagement process can be interrupted by having meaningful conversations that strengthen commitment through relationship.

Dr. Maynard Brusman is the president of Working Resources – a strategic talent management, leadership consulting, training, and executive coaching firm. He is a full professor in counseling psychology in the Northern Arizona University Statewide Education Program where he taught summer courses in self-management and career development. He specializes in offering customized individual and organizational collaborative consultation services and workshops on hiring, coaching and retaining emotionally intelligent people; executive selection and assessment; psychological testing for employment screening; performance-based interviewing and selection; multi-rater 360-degree feedback; interpersonal skills; career development; change management; and executive/leadership coaching. Dr. Brusman is a member of the American Psychological Association, American Society for Training and Development, Bay Area Association of Applied Psychologists, Bay Area Organization Development Network, California State Psychological Association, Institute of Management Consultants, the International Coach Federation, Marin Coaches Alliance, the Society of Industrial and Organizational Psychology, the Northern California Human Resources Association, the Professional Coaches & Mentors Association, and San Francisco Coaches. For article feedback, contact Dr. Maynard Brusman at


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