People often associate interviews with the hiring process – big mistake. Interviews have so many other applications and can be a valuable instrument in your leadership toolkit.
It’s easy as a leader to give directions, focus on what you’d like to get done and lead from the front. But listening is often a lost art these days. There are two applications of interviews that I have found extremely valuable and foster better listening skills.
The first is when doing any sort of turnaround. It may be organization-wide or just a team that needs to elevate their game. I used to do many turnarounds and I learned early on that the more questions I asked, and the more I listened in the early stages of a turnaround, the quicker I was able get things moving in the right direction. It initially appears somewhat contrarian to listen first, since time is of the essence and getting results is critical, but learning from the people on the ground first can provide incredible insights. I often found that they already had the solutions to some of the key problems being experienced – just nobody listened in the past.
As a result, I came to spend the first 30 days just interviewing people. Really learning from employees – and there was a twofold benefit. They’d usually help me solve problems faster than I could have on my own and the interviews set the tone about the type of culture I was trying to set up – open, transparent and mutual respect. Everyone needs to know that we’re all on the same team.
The second application of interviews is what we like to call “stay interviews.” So often we’re only focused on interviewing people when they leave our organization. We’re interested in finding out why and learning how to avoid any mistakes we might be making going forward. Although exit interviews are important, an even better practice is to interview your team while they’re still with you. What you’ll learn can be amazing – not only about your organization, but more importantly, about you.
It’s a matter of time before the economy turns around and holding on to your top talent will be a bit more difficult. Do you know your team – really know them? What they like about their job, what they’d like to change? Their aspirations? Their challenges? How you can help them grow? The sooner you can move them to wanting to stay, the sooner you can tap into their potential and create a two-way road of benefits.
As a leader, make interviews a key part of your week. There’s little to lose, and much to gain.