Most of us realize that when making tough, critical decisions – like hiring a new staff member – the “ideal” team outperforms the individual.
Multiple perspectives lend better insight about the needs for the position and who can best fulfill them. One person notices what another misses, potentially saving the church or organization a disastrous mess. Yet, at the same time, no self-respecting manager would turn over to some committee the responsibility for hiring a new staff member who will report to him or her. After all, that manager is “on-the-hook” for whatever decision is made, and involving others in the decision takes precious time and invites all sorts of challenges.
You see, it’s really hard to balance competing desires/needs to:
- maintain individual responsibility,
- facilitate involvement of key stakeholders,
- make a great decision,
- adhere to expectations of those “above” you in the organizational hierarchy, and
- use time efficiently.
Because feeding all those desires is so hard, we rarely seek a solution that accomplishes all of those objectives. Instead, we sacrifice one to pursue the others. To save time and maintain individual responsibility, we say, “I’ll just make the decision myself.” Or, “Fine, I’ll involve others and just realize this is going to take forever. I’d like some input, but, in the end, I’ll make the final decision.”
It doesn’t have to be that way, however. We can structure our processes to meet those competing demands. Yes, collaboration can be efficient and fit within expectations of the organizational hierarchy. Here is an eight step collaborative process you can use for hiring staff members that takes advantage of quality collaborative interaction, spurs constructive conflict, facilitates decisions without wasting a ton of time, and satisfies the demands for accountability within a traditional authoritative system.
- Call together a small group of no more than 7 people who understand the vacant position and hold a stake in the selection. These should be folks you know will advocate for their “stake” in the decision, yet will also look out for one another’s “stakes” as they come to a decision. Let the group know that you really value their input and you hope to make a decision through a consensus, but that you reserve the right to make the final decision.
- Together, determine the key responsibilities and competencies of the position. To do that, ask people to send you an individual list of 4-5 key responsibilities and 2-3 competencies before the meeting. You can synthesize those lists before the meeting, and use the meeting to quickly come to consensus on the fundamental responsibilities and competencies. (By the way, structuring your talk this way is FAR better than free-flow discussion when people just start throwing out a ton of ideas.) After you’ve developed these key responsibilities and competencies, you’ll have standards against which you can measure each candidate.
- Go back to your office and develop the job description (by yourself). Doing it together simply takes too much time. If you want the group to review it before you post it, you can certainly ask for quick feedback.
- Use the list of competencies to develop a simple rating form. Once you have candidates, you can simply assess each one, using their application materials (application, resume, cover letter, etc.) against each competency. For example, if you have 7 competencies, you’ll rank each candidate as best you can on a scale from 1 to 5 for each one, for a possible total score of 35 points.
- Once you have a substantial applicant pool, call the group together again to rate the candidates. (Note: this is only your second group meeting.) In this meeting, you will:
- Divide up the candidates’ application materials, and rank each candidate using your ranking form. Ensure that two different group members rate each candidate. Next, add up the two ratings. Then, identify the top 5-10 candidates based on the score. At this point, you have not engaged ANY discussion about any of the candidates.
- Explore consensus among the group. Does the group agree that these candidates are the top candidates? Are there other candidates (with lower scores) that should be given additional consideration? Is there a candidate or two with top scores that should not be considered.
- Identify the top 2-3 candidates (or however many you want) to interview. Now is the time to spend some time discussing the candidates and which two or three should be invited for interviews. I have found that the numerical rankings really help in moving discussion along and forcing folks to make good arguments rather than simply expressing opinions and hunches.
- Schedule group interviews and reference calls. After the interviews and reference calls, ask each group member to individually use the ranking form to rate each candidate again.
- Tally up the individual rankings and call a decision meeting. In this meeting, share the results of the numerical rankings and engage in discussion, seeking consensus on the top candidate. Again, the numerical rankings resolve a lot of unnecessary talk, such as why the lowest-ranked candidate is not a good candidate. The numbers already showed that, so there’s nothing to talk about, unless someone wants to argue for him/her. Sometimes consensus (including the manager) is easily reached; other times it is not. When there is no group consensus or you are not settled on the decision, explain to the group your concerns and thought process and ask for their response. Perhaps that will lead to an explanation that changes your mind, or that will change their minds. But, if there is still no consensus, tell the group you would like to hear their final arguments, and that you will take it into consideration as you make the final decision.
- Make the decision (by yourself or utilizing your network of trusted advisors) and explain to the group why you made the decision. At this point, if you have truly listened to the group and considered their input, they should be able to respect your decision and your ultimate responsibility for making the final determination.
By engaging this type of process, you:
- demonstrate to key stakeholders that you value their input,
- reap the benefit of multiple perspectives,
- share the workload of evaluating candidates,
- ensure key stakeholders help to define the most important responsibilities of the position (and likely have a more realistic position description),
- maintain individual responsibility and satisfy the expectations of your supervisor to “own” the decision;
- avoid unfocused conversations about the relative merits and disadvantages of each candidate, and
- only have to endure three (count it – 3) group meetings (and if you run the process in your normal meetings, you’ve added ZERO meetings to your schedule);
- build the collaborative potential of your team or task force, leaving you all better equipped to work effectively as a team.
If you have never engaged in this kind of process, I encourage you to give it shot.
Perhaps this is an area you could “tithe to collaboration”?
Photo Credit: Cgat