Performance, Team

4 evidence-based tools to improve your hiring performance

There is Grand Canyon kind of gap between the science of management and the practice of it. And, having been on both sides regularly, I get that. Most of the scientific papers are very difficult to read and understand for the practitioner (so much terminology). Furthermore, if that were not a problem quite often what is being researched seems out-of-touch with the day-to-day business reality as well


However, what I don’t get is that still so many companies when hiring new employees continue to rely on an unstructured interview (a conversation).  The typical questions you will get in this type of interview are:

  • Tell us about yourself? (and then you continue to ask-your-way-through their CV);
  • What is your strengths and weaknesses (I am persistent, but stubborn…);
  • Why did you apply for this job?
  • etc.

The reason why you are interviewing candidates is increased the odds of good future job performance.

If you would measure a candidate’s cognitive ability and their conscientiousness adding an unstructured interview increases these odds with just 1.5% (Erez & Grant, 2014).  Right, you might was well use your time for other matters.

Now, using standardised testing (BIG 5, etc.) requires a qualified psychologist, but there are 4 other evidence-based tools available to us all (Gary Latham, 2009) :

  • Situational interviews – What would you do in this situation?
  • Patterned behavioural description interviews – What did you do in that situation?
  • Job simulations – Show me how you handle this situation.
  • Realistic job previews – Here’s what is great about the job and what is not so great…

In the past I have been responsible for a team recruiting and hiring specifically to form self-starting teams, which would be send abroad to big cities to start new innovative charity projects.

In this team there was an HR specialist, a psychologist and myself. The HR specialist and the psychologist would engage in structured interviewing (both situational and patterned behavioural description) and they would run several robust assessments,  and perform reference and background checks (and asked references if they knew other references). Parallel to this, the candidates would go through an engagement process where they would face job simulations with other candidates and would get a better idea about what the job would actually entail (good, bad and ugly). I would participate in the simulations and interactions, but not in the interviewing and assessments. In the end the team would sit down together and I would give my ‘thin slice’ idea about the candidates followed by the professionals presenting their evidence plus “verdict”.

We hired many people through this process and the number of ‘miss-hires’ was extremely low. Moreover, for each of the miss-hires we reconstructed the hiring process and found that in each we did not stick to the process (most common cause: a not-to-be-missed candidate was presented at the last minute).

Hiring new employees is both an art and a science, but omitting the science is bad for your business.


Leadership, Performance, Strategy

“Got” Strategy? – Why the trickling down effect does not work


Crucial for the performance of companies is the so-called “embeddedness” of their strategy among the employees (i.e. is the strategy understood and accepted).

The understanding part is the first hurdle. Research indicates only 29% of employees in large corporations with well-advertised strategies can recognise the strategy (passive understanding). Recent research found that “Higher-level employees, employees who are happy with their compensation and work-life balance, and employees whose overall view of their company is positive are more likely than others to understand and agree with the company’s strategy.” This explains about 39% of variation.

Galunic and Hermreck found three determinants:

  • an employee’s job conditions (important),
  • the view of the quality and engagement of supervisor (not so important – only indirect influence via job conditions), and
  • the perception of and trust in top management (very important).

Of these the perception of and trust in top management was by far the most important underlining the problems found with trying to cascade strategy “down” the pyramid… Employees need to hear and understand the bigger picture. They need to hear it from leaders who can communicate both the universals of the strategy  (a better future) as well as the uniqueness of the strategy (turning talent into performance).

Strategy execution is this fascinating and challenging endeavour of combining universals with uniqueness or leadership with management. The joy and the benefits of seeing everybody “get” strategy is well worth the effort.

Performance, Team

Want to raise the collective intelligence of your team? Add Women!


The so-called “collective intelligence”  is the general effectiveness of a team on a wide range of tasks. Collective intelligence or the “c factor”  predicts how well the teams perform more complex tasks, “above and beyond the predictive ability of the average individual intelligence of group members”. In other words, there is something to a team that is indeed more than the sum of its parts.

There is only a mild correlation between the intelligence of a  teams’ individual members and its collective intelligence – So, putting a lot of smart people together in a team does not necessarily create a smart team.

So, what does determine the collective intelligence of a team?

The ability of individual team members to “read minds” or more precisely the “ability to make inferences about others’ mental states” determines the collective intelligence of a team. Collective intelligence rises when there is a more equality in conversational turn taking.

Raising the collective intelligence of a team is important as it determines for more than 40% the performance of your team.

The easiest way to increase the collective intelligence in the team is rather straightforward: Add more women to your team!


Leadership, Learning, Team

Extraverted Leadership Head-Butts Employee Proactivity


It is already established that the way you lead can make your team go quiet. However, it is also well established that extraversion – as in engaging behaviours that put the leader in the centre of attention – is consistently connected to transformational leadership performance.  Is this always true? Well, no, it is particularly true when employees are not proactive. (see Grant et al, 2011).

When employees are proactive, that is they voice ideas, take charge and exert upward influence, extraverted leadership becomes a negative trait.

Isn’t it interesting many or most (?) leaders are intimidated by proactive behaviour of employees (or see it as mere distractions)?

We all like proactive behaviour when it is our proactivity. If you like to improve team performance and you are extraverted, you either find non-proactive team members or you adopt a different, more quiet and receptive style and work with proactive team members.

An easy choice, if you ask me.

Leadership, Learning

Give a little bit…


Intuitively, most would recognise the need for helping each other within an organisation (and life in general). Research confirms that a “Giver Culture”, a culture where team members help, share, offer mentoring, and make connections leads to highest effectiveness. In comparing top-ranked helpers with a “random non-helpers” Amabile and others found that it was the higher level of trust and accessibility for helpers, rather than competence that made the difference.

What this research also found is that helpfulness must be nurtured as it does not arise automatically. In line with the evolution of trust in individuals where one cannot be certain that any resources they provide to another person will be reciprocated later, help requires a similar commitment for uncertain returns. At the moment of providing help “it might seem like more trouble than it’s worth”.

Creating a culture of “mutual help” is tricky as it can only be inspired, not forced.

Give a little bit of help today…

Performance, Team

A simple question to improve your team’s performance


Have you noticed how the most confident and outgoing people in teams not only talk the most (obviously) but often also influence the outcomes the most? Very often the more expert team members remain quiet.

Bryan Bonner and Alexander Bolinger found through team experiments that there is a simple question that can change this phenomenon:

Ask the team members to discuss what knowledge EACH brings to the table…

This will move the team from power from social influence to power from informational influence.

In team experiments teams that did this systematically outperformed teams that did not.

Make sure your teams takes a pause for this reflection.