3 Interview Questions For Hiring Remote Workers

Hiring onsite employees is tough enough, but when it comes to hiring remote workers don’t overcomplicate it.

Before considering to hire remotely, trust is monumental. Without it you’ll fail.

Managing people virtually shouldn’t be much different than in-person since what works face-to-face tends to work over video/phone.

Keep in mind retaining workers is costly when the wrong person is hired, so use the following three questions as a guide to weed out the amateurs and hire the best:

1. Why?

Start with a candidate’s character. Why questions get to the motivation behind an answer. You won’t be physically present to witness how someone spends their time during work, so figure out how driven, self-aware and organized they are ahead of time. Why questions hit at the core of who someone is. Asking past behavior scenarios tend to be the most popular during interviews, but past success doesn’t always translate smoothly to new endeavors. If you need more context watch this Simon Sinek video on why.

2. How?

You can have the most knowledgable person working for you, but if they don’t fit your culture you’ve made a bad hire. Without downplaying competence, style questions are a must when it comes to hiring the right people. If you’re unsure how to define your culture, stop and figure it out before hiring anyone. How questions really come down to identifying personal strengths. The best leaders in any industry are self-aware. That means generic answers on an interview just don’t cut it. As an employer you want to know how they prioritize, interact with others and communicate orally/written just to name a few. Most of a manager’s time is spent dealing with interpersonal issues, so if you’re seeing red flags when it comes to personality quirks don’t proceed. Another helpful exercise is hiring based on your company’s core values. They can be even more powerful than mission or vision statements because they are measurable in behaviors. Zappos is a good example if you need a place to start.

3. What? 

Typical interviews start here. Tell me about your last job. Describe a time you failed a task and what was your response. What is your biggest weakness? Candidates can rehearse these answers and interviewers can critique every detail. The truth is what questions don’t reveal nearly as much as “why” or “how” questions. When asking “what” questions find out: experience, industry knowledge and their decision making process. Interviews are just a preliminary phase to understanding on-the-job performance. Even the best questions can’t possibly cover future mistakes by workers. A judgment call must be made here: do you want to hire for experience (less training, higher salary) or potential (more training, lower salary)? The answer to this question comes back to your core values.

Consider this: treat all your future interviews as potentially remote hires. Not only is that the way our economy is headed, but if you can trust someone working virtually you definitely can in the office.

Hire the best. Don’t settle for less.

The Presidents Cup: Millennials At Their Best

Golf is an individual sport, but annually the best golfers in the world gather to play team competition.

Similar to playing doubles in tennis, team competition brings out the best (or worst) in you.

This year Team USA dismantled the International Team so badly at the Presidents Cup it was over before the last day of competition.

Strategy can be debated, but what was clear is this team dominated by Millennials showed what happens when personal strengths are unleashed.

Chemistry and connection trump competence.

The US team was heavily favored, but in the Ryder Cup (played alternate years from the Presidents Cup vs. Team Europe) the Yankees have struggled in a similar scenario. Talent provides a huge advantage, but without camaraderie you can get beat by lesser foes.

What’s evident in sports and business is Millennials thrive in teams. Whether a professional athlete or young professional, Millennials are better together.

Team USA has struggled for several years in team competition where their individual talent did not match their team unity. The difference this year was the off-the-course friendships were the foundation for victory.

Millennials take a beating from the media (mostly from other generations) and even if some of the criticism is justified, you should choose to focus on the positives.

Veterans can play the mentor role in any setting, but results not style, should be emphasized.

Age shouldn’t be a prerequisite for leadership roles.

This year’s US team led with enthusiasm, togetherness and execution.

In sports or business to maximize Millennials focus on creating a strong, team culture based on accountability then step back and let them go to work.

3 Ways To Generate New Ideas

Most people are drawn to entrepreneurship because of the potential of new ideas, but what happens when you run out of them?

It doesn’t matter how creative you are, your mind becomes a blank canvas at some point (yes, it even happens to the best of them).

So when you’re looking for new ideas, but can’t find them what should you do?

1. Read

Most ideas are not original, so don’t put added pressure on yourself to be an inventor. My ideas tend to be inspired by what I read on platforms like Medium. Whether it’s an article, book or video tutorial, “bettering” an idea is much more efficient than creating one. Certain authors will resonate with you and you will follow them more because of their similar mindset. If it makes you feel better the most successful companies rarely create their own industry, they just dominate it with a differentiating point. When all else fails read…

2. Network

To build off reading, people are where ideas come from. Some of my best networking experiences focused less around trying to sell myself and more about just listening. True networking is simply connecting. A friend of mine said it best: “the people you keep in contact with are the ones whose point of views you find stimulating.” Networking can be the best way to learn about an industry you don’t know about. Understanding someone’s process can be a game changer. Also, if you’re a sole proprietor one of the worst things you can do is stay in isolation. No matter how introverted you are, make it a point to connect with others in person, on the phone or through the internet. Nothing great is accomplished alone so don’t be a hermit.

3. Do

People have asked me, “how do you know what to write about weekly?” My honest answer: I don’t. I just write about what I’m learning currently. I mean isn’t that what a blog is? It’s a public journal of your thoughts. Sure, I like hearing success stories and formulas that have worked before, but it’s as inspiring to hear people’s journeys. I like the idea that you’re never ready; the choice is whether you’re going to start or not. I admit I’m not a ready-aim-fire guy. It takes too long. I’m learning to get better at aiming, but my natural instinct is to stop talking about it and just do it (potentially at the core of my obsession with Nike). If you wait for the perfect idea, you may never act. Failing is what the most successful companies have embraced better than others, not success.

So the next time you’re struggling to come up with new ideas try reading, networking and taking action. Chances are the idea will come to you during the process, not prior to it.

The Best Manager I Ever Had

The criteria for “best manager” is quite subjective, but hopefully everyone’s had (at least) one by now.

As I mentioned in a previous article, managing people is a completely different skill set than technical job skills. Just like food, what you think is “best” can differ tremendously from someone else’s perspective.

For this post I’d like to share who my best manager was and how he treated me. It wouldn’t work for everyone, but besides being my own boss, I haven’t ever felt more free under someone’s care.

Back in 2002 on my first official day as Youth Director, my supervisor at the time gave me a job description, yet instead of saying look it over and sign it he said “edit what you like and don’t like about it.”

A bit dumbfounded I started reading over the bullet points, highlighting areas I wanted to tackle and crossed out tasks I felt were outside my wheelhouse. I remember giving it back to Keith and he was, “ok looks good, let’s get to work!”

Most people dread meetings, but because I’ve experienced some great ones, it really comes down to how the meeting is run. Keith and I differ in terms of our leaderships styles, but weekly check-in meetings usually consisted over lunch. As a guy, let me tell you, there’s no better way to talk business than over food. The meeting actually has a clear ending time (unlike most) when the check is signed.

I was given tons of autonomy which I appreciated. There was an excel sheet that I tracked all my hours in different categories. Programming was up to me as long as I explained what I was doing to the staff, parents and students. Office hours were at my discrepancy also, which was great because I believed the more I was out on the field with the youth, the more effective my work was.

Now Keith and I did have a friendship years before when he was my Youth Director and when he moved back to Arizona for many years I did visit him a couple of times and stayed with his family. That may sound soft, but I can’t emphasize how much “liking” someone outside of work makes a difference in how hard you work for that person (see my last boss).

Most managers scoff at the idea of giving away trust freely in fear they will get taken advantage of, but that’s completely tainted by your personal worldview. For example as a remote manager, you actually don’t have a choice when it comes to trust. You either give it and expect it back or withhold it and it’s never gained.

This experience of having almost complete autonomy faired extremely well for me, even influenced me to start my own business years later. Others may have preferred more hands-on leadership from their manager, but not me.

Like most things in life, you never fully appreciate things until they’re gone. Less than 2 years later Keith moved on and I was placed under his boss. Things were definitely not the same (including the relationship) to the point where I would often skip team staff lunches because of the awkwardness around the table. (Note: if I pass up free food, there’s a problem)

A manager’s job is to bring out the best in his/her team which usually takes a style adjustment for each individual to some degree. Leadership is truly an art and if you’ve ever experienced a masterpiece environment treasure it because it won’t last forever.

The 1 Question Managers Need To Ask

Managing people isn’t for everyone, but if taken seriously one question will give you all the answers you need to maximize productivity:

How can I best support you?

Here’s why: support isn’t defined by the giver, but the recipient.

I asked this question in my previous management role and it did wonders for morale, engagement and performance.

The best workers are self-motivated. As a professional if you need to be externally motivated to do your job, even the greatest perks/benefits won’t make a huge difference.

Once hired in a role (assuming you’re qualified), you need to be trained with the skills to do the job, but when that on-boarding process is complete it’s your turn to soar.

As a manager you don’t need to be smarter than the team you lead. In fact, if you facilitate and support well technical skills are just a bonus.

Support is something you feel. When you are being supported you know it. If you have to think about it, it’s absent.

Your job as a manager is to help your teammates shine. At a deeper level it’s making them look better than you. If there’s too much ego involved as a manager, you’re destined to be in competition with your team rather than holding hands across the finish line.

There’s a simple way to gauge if the workers under your care feel supported: ask them.

Be specific. Ask this: on a scale of 1 – 10, 1 being not at all vs. 10 feeling like a champion rate the amount of support you feel?

In a performance-based world, this approach may sound soft, but that’s exactly why it works.

A manager’s job isn’t to tell their team how to do something, it’s to clarify objectives and remove all the obstacles in their way.

Going back to my “best workers” example, when giving support you also offer respect, care and autonomy. Think about the best boss you’ve had. I highly doubt they rode you like a horse. Instead I guarantee you’ll describe your relationship with them (soft skills).

Management isn’t easy, but it’s also not rocket science. Take the servant leadership approach to managing others and you’ll be amazed at how people’s strengths will rise to the top.

Why Most Managers Fail

Are managers born or made?

The politically correct answer is made, but there are certain traits that can’t be taught.

To better understand what a manager’s role entails we’ll use the image above to guide us. Disregard the industry (information systems), but focus on the three levels: operational (technical), tactical (management) and strategic (executives).

Managers fall in the middle category which places them as supervisors of the technical workers (catalysts of the employee-customer transaction).

Why most managers fail is because they don’t realize promotion equates to learning a different skill set.

Let’s say your company makes widgets. Technical workers get better at their job when they figure out how to be more efficient (increasing productivity). But when a technical role shifts to a leadership role, it doesn’t matter how well you were able to produce widgets anymore.

Your job as a manager is to lead people who make widgets. A subtle, but powerful change that most companies overlook.

The same skills that made you a great widget maker do not translate to being a manager. If you’re trying to out-do your subordinates you’re not actually fulfilling your new job duties.

A manager’s responsibility is to oversee, support and make his/her workers under them better. This takes skills such as: motivation, empathy, time management, conflict resolution, etc.

Managerial duties are vastly different than technical skills.

Can they be taught? Yes, but the real issue is most managers weren’t hired for their leadership abilities, rather their technical prowess.

In my last role this is where my boss failed. She believed telling me what to do and keeping me on a short leash was her job. Instead what she lacked was listening skills, innovation and vision to name a few.

My message to managers is this: clarify what is expected of you.

Using a sports analogy, most managers want to be all-stars (individual high performers), but what your organization really needs from you is to be MVP (making your teammates better around you).

Managers need to be self-aware about what they can and cannot do. The quicker you realize that, the more effective your company will be moving forward.

3 Ways To Slay Your Next Interview

Resumes don’t get you hired, interviews do.

A solid resume is like having a driver’s license. It doesn’t mean you’re a good driver, but it qualifies you to be on the road.

As the traditional resume fades out, the need for strong interview skills becomes even more important.

Here are 3 ways to prepare for your next interview:

1. Do Your Research – This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s not. Viewing the company website, about us page and mission statement is a good place to start, but not enough. Search LinkedIn for current employees from the company, connect and ask them about their experience. While you’re there locate the recruiter posting the position and request a connection to increase your chances of your application being seen. Do informational interviews with workers in similar roles. Look on Glassdoor for company reviews, both pros and cons. Browse their social media presence to observe the culture and what current issues are being discussed. There’s too much public information out there to go into an interview blindly. Finding a role that fits today is as much about the cultural fit as it is about being your “dream job.”

2. Improve Self-Awareness – One question you’re guaranteed to be asked is “Tell me about your strengths” or “What is your greatest weakness?” (sometimes both) This comes down to how well you really know yourself. If you have a hard time answering either of these questions you clearly didn’t do your homework. No matter what role you’re applying for your strengths and weaknesses shouldn’t change. In fact, if you truly want to be remembered illustrate your strengths in a past example then spin your weakness into a strength. If you’re having trouble articulating what you do well take the StrengthsFinder assessment. It will give you 5 things you excel at and their belief is there is no such thing as weaknesses, just overdone strengths. The most successful leaders in any industry are self-aware. Let that marinate in your mind for a second.

3. Lengthen the ConversationWant to know when your chances of landing the role decrease the most? When your interview ends quickly. The dynamic of a strong interview can be dictated by you the interviewee IF facilitated right. Most applicants focus on answering the questions right, but once you realize it’s a conversation it becomes more about engagement than sheer information. There’s usually a point where the interviewer asks if you have any questions. This is your time to shine. Questions such as, “How did you find this company? What does a successful candidate look like in this role? What’s a great cultural fit here?” takes the focus off you and reveals what they’re truly looking for in a fit. The last position I got hired for included 4 interviews, the first 3 being fairly short (thought I was out of the running), but the final one lasted 90 minutes in which I was offered a contract on the spot. Treat your interviews like grabbing coffee with a friend. The more you have to talk about the less it is about what you say, but how you say it that people remember. Let’s be honest, if the interviewer(s) don’t like you, even if you’re a strong candidate, there’s no way you’re getting hired. Being likable won’t land you a job, but it also can give you a leg up on the competition.

Interviews can be tough, but your mental preparation can make the greatest difference. Like most things in life, practice may not result in perfect, but it sure makes for better. Remember confidence is built over time. Follow the steps above before your next interview and expect the best outcome to happen!

3 Ways Managing Remotely Made Me A Better Leader

Managing people is hard enough, but try doing it remotely.

On a weekly basis I spend the bulk of my hours at work meeting 30 individuals via Zoom for 30 minute check-ins. During that time we cover a myriad of different metrics that rate their performance, but I choose to focus on 3 things solely:

1. Connecting – technology has widened the talent pool, but also breeds disconnection. Instead of being concerned about physical location as a barrier, I try to immerse myself in a session as if we were in the same room. Human connection is a powerful thing no matter where you are. Relationships are formed over time through trust regardless of distance. Working remotely can present challenges yet with empathy, active listening and genuine care the virtual gap can be closed. Think of having a conversation with a friend over coffee. The same principles of building a friendship apply here. Connection is the foundation for any working relationship to thrive.

2. Community – working from home sounds glorious until you look around and realize you’re alone. If employees can feel isolated in an office full of co-workers imagine how remote employees feel. The concept of a “virtual water cooler” has been talked about, but how do you make it happen? As a suggestion, Slack is a great place to start. The platform you choose isn’t as important as it’s function. In this case it’s to organically build relationships during personal time. Instead of gathering at the lunch table or local bar, it’s responding to someone’s question, comment, photo or video. It’s not something that can be forced, nor in some cases facilitated. It takes several people in the group to take initiative and put in the effort to communicate. In fact the best interactions are when the manager isn’t involved. The voluntary part of it makes it real.

3. Cultivate – the uniqueness of each member of the team makes the whole together special. Most managers try to control employees working remotely because they have trust issues. The problem is the more policies and procedures you enforce, the more anarchy is created. Trust is built via connecting so everything grows out of that. Don’t try to mold everyone to be the same, celebrate their differences. When each person brings their unique talents and strengths to the table, why would a manager quell them? A manager’s role is to bring out the best in each person by leveraging personal strengths. If you’re not developing people as a manager you’re crushing their spirit. It’s not enough to have the right people on the bus. Each person has to be on the right seat in order to reach the promise land. My job is to allow my team to shine by getting out of their way.

As a leader managing people remotely is challenging, but a true test of your abilities. Similar to organizing volunteers, when you are stripped of power, money and resources all you have is your relationships. My belief is if you can lead others remotely, you can lead any team anywhere. If you want to test your leadership capabilities manage people from a distance. You’ll be forced to give up control, ego and certainty…and that’s not a bad thing at all.

How Bad Examples Fuel Change

Every moment is a learning opportunity, even the bad ones..

When I started as an entrepreneur I knew networking was crucial to success so without hesitation I joined my local Chamber of Commerce. The first event I attended was in the patio of a local eatery dressed with free food and drinks.

There were two types of people there: veteran members who stood on the sidelines talking to each and newbies like me introducing myself to anyone who wasn’t in conversation. Reciting an elevator pitch, handing out business cards and trying to sell myself was my approach. I remember it being quite loud there so 50 business cards later I left forgetting who was who and quite hoarse from the night’s interactions. After I got home, decompressed and evaluated the event I questioned the purpose of it.

A month later I figured maybe I just had a bad experience and went to the next event in an office space. Less food, quieter ambiance and more intimate. But the results were the same. As I introduced myself to members, I felt judged. Did I need to earn their respect immediately by telling a recent conquest? It seemed like it would take a while to penetrate the walls of folded arms, so I decided to leave.

I said to myself, “If this is what networking is, I don’t want to do it anymore!”

A few years later I was in a slow season of business and knew I had to drum up some new contacts, but didn’t know how. As someone who loves to organize events, I knew what components both needed to be present and absent for actual “connecting” to happen. I met with a friend and shared my vision for this new type of networking event and he encouraged me to try it…so I did.

Career Synergy was a 90-minute, monthly networking event hosted at a local coffee shop after hours on the first Tuesday of the month geared towards young professionals. How did I decide on these details? Surveys and market research.

What I wanted: speakers rich with life experiences they wanted to share, scheduled small groups times during the meeting and a dedicated informal “connecting” time after the event (not before).

What I didn’t want: loud music, free food/drinks and unstructured networking before the event.

How I measured success: 25 events total ranging from 10 – 45 people. 90% of attendees stayed 30 minutes after the events to mingle with each other. I made friends and partnered together in events to this day.

The shift for me happened when I stopped complaining about past examples and created my own solution.

Once networking became a lifestyle instead of an “event” the quality and quantity of my connections increased.

To this day I set a goal to connect with at least one person a week over the phone or in-person (that’s with a full-time job, plus email is too easy of an option).

Your career is more about who you know than what you know, but if you focus on improving bad experiences there might actually be a business idea waiting to be launched!

Bad examples will occur, but the question is: will it sour you or fuel you to change?

A Manager’s Secret Weapon (Yet Rarely Used)

Most bosses don’t get it.

Middle management’s main job is to manage people, not tasks.

Tasks need to be completed, but it’s how you manage your people that makes all the difference.

If your workers aren’t getting things done, the first finger pointed should be at you (the manager).

Have you clearly communicated your expectations? 

Are your people properly trained?

Are you putting them in a place to succeed?

Most managers don’t understand when the role changes, your responsibilities do too. If you don’t want to spend the majority of your time and energy dealing with interpersonal issues, don’t take the job!

I truly believe leadership skills can be taught to anyone, but that doesn’t make an effective leader. There are many traits that make a great leader, but the simplest one with the greatest ROI is:

Positive feedback.

Did you know it takes 5 positive comments to cancel out 1 negative one?

I wouldn’t worry too much about the ratio, except by saying your workers evaluate you. Performance reviews are held for employees all the time, but what about managers? Is your boss held to the same standards as the people they lead?  

If not, that’s a culture problem. Hypocrisy is the most visible sin in a business. It’s the one fault that causes morale to plummet and turnover to skyrocket.

If you work for someone else, you’re supporting another person’s dream. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that since not everyone can run a successful business. But when people don’t feel heard or treated unfairly it can signal the beginning of the end.

Managers who rarely dish out positive feedback are both insecure and focused on the wrong things. They haven’t bought into the fact their impact is determined by the team’s output, not theirs.

Being positive is similar to active listening. It can be taught, but usually if you don’t have it, you don’t have it.

The best leaders know metrics and data can only measure so much. Just like companies create a brand experience, managers create employee experiences. With power comes great responsibility; a willingness to model service to your team so it’s passed down to customers.

A positive comment can go a long way, but only if you actually say it.