Monday, March 30, 2009

Finding Answers vs. Finding Questions

I think the record for one of my kids at age three or four was 32 questions in a row. Daddy, why? And you string along a litany of “whys” and “becauses” until you are exhausted and finally end with either “I don’t know” or “BECAUSE I SAID SO!” Every parent goes through this rite of passage but is it a rite for your kids or for you?

I don’t believe, in the minds of the kids, the ANSWERS are important at all. That is why they so easily brush the answer aside, find a key word and attach a “why” to it to form the next question. Asking the question has a purpose beyond just getting an answer. I believe that when a child starts with “Daddy, why is the sky blue?” he or she is really asking “Daddy, will you pay attention to me?” and when, after the 13th question “But why can’t I eat my boogers?” he or she is really asking “Do you love me?” and after the 30th question “Daddy, but WHY do you and mom lock your bedroom door?” he or she is really asking: “Daddy, do you REALLY love me?”

Now let us transfer that same concept to adults. We, as adults, ask some of the stupidest questions but most of the time we really don’t want to know the answer; we have some other purpose in mind. Most often we want to make a statement. When we ask someone “what, are you stupid or something?” I really don’t think we are looking for them to answer the question, we are making a statement.

In a politically charged arena a reporter will ask the question “Why don’t you believe in a women’s right to choose?” and you should know immediately that the reporter is not really asking a question but making a statement. The statement, in the form of a question, from the opposite viewpoint would go like this: “Why do you believe a new mother should not kill her child by chopping it up into little pieces, sucking its little arms and legs up with a vacuum cleaner, and throwing the baby out with the trash?” Now is that a question or a statement with some kind of purpose in mind? The purpose is often to get you caught in an answer that can be manipulated to a headline: “Politician doesn’t support women” or “Politician wants to kill babies!”

When someone comes to me as a man of faith and asks “How can there be a God when there is so much bad in the world?” I can answer that question or I can seek to find the purpose behind it. Chances are they don’t want an answer or won’t be convinced no matter how good the answer is because THE ANSWER IS NOT WHY THEY ARE ASKING THE QUESTION!

When your child asks his 51st question in a row; scoop him up in your arms and say: “Because I love you!” When people ask stupid, strange, or loaded questions attempt to go behind the question and find the purpose. Life is not about finding answers; life is all about finding the RIGHT questions.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The REAL You

At a gathering of business “friends” I tend to sit back and people watch. I have this tendency to categorize and analyze and try to get under the skin through the simple observation. A man, small in stature, receding hairline, a bit overweight, and rumpled suit made his way from one clique to another like a bumblebee sucking a little nectar and moving on to the next. The fact that he hovered over all the small groups didn’t strike me as much as a common phrase I heard him say in each. It was something like: “I really hate these parties, I am such an introvert, and they drive me crazy!” And then he would go on to the next group of flowers to buzz the same interjection. As a wallflower myself, I found his introvertedness extraordinarily extroverted.

If it looks like a duck and acts like a duck the chances are: it’s a duck. It really doesn’t matter if the duck thinks it’s a dog, it’s still a duck.

The REAL you, the authentic YOU is doing what you promise and not just “being who you are.” BEING is way to nebulous to pin down and most people are pretty poor at judging who you are trying to BE. DOING, on the other hand, is easy to see and easy to judge. A wise man once said that it is “by their fruit you shall know them.” He didn’t say you can know them by what they ARE or what they are BEING.

A person of any religion can come up to you and claim “I am a person of faith.” But what if their actions are the opposite of faith? What if they are filled with worry? What if they are filled with violence and abuse? What if they lie, cheat, and steal? Where is their faith? What if it acts like a duck?

We all know those kinds of hypocritical fanatics and that is not what I want you to remember from this column. I want it to be positive because in that same BEING vs. DOING issue lays a strategy for life.

You could spend your time wondering and worrying if you are a person of faith; worrying about your eternity, wondering if you are who you should be; or, you could spend your time DOING it. You could spend your time wondering IF what you say you are is really you. OR you could just act like that all the time.

Just ACT; just DO what you should do. That is enough; you can save all the angst for your cigar and cognac discussion in a leather chair somewhere.

Monday, March 16, 2009


"Father, FATHER, the sleeper has awaken!" inspires me every time I hear it. It is from a corny sci-fi movie. (Can you name it? Look it up on youtube and be inspired) I love going to movies and I think that one of the reasons is that I love to be inspired. A good yarn leading to a climax of faith, conscience, or critical decision where the hero agonizes and knits together quote that will inspire you beyond the comforter of the movie. Something we all could and SHOULD relate to.

Here are some of my favorites in no particular order:

"I may not be able to carry it for you Mr. Frodo, but I can carry you!"

"Get busy living, or get busy dying!"

"Do or do not do, there is no try!"

"There is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path!"

"There's no place like home!" (Okay a little old and corny, but I grew up with this movie!)

"I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast!"

"Tell Meryl, to swing away!"

"It's only after you've lost everything that you're free to do anything!"

"What we do in life echoes in eternity!"

"Every man dies, but not every man truly lives!"

"Nephew, from this moment on, call yourself Vincent Corleone!"

There are many more quotes that make me laugh, make me cry, or are just fun to say but these inspire me. They give me goose bumps when I hear them and bring tears to my eyes. (email me your favorites and I'll post them on my blog.)

The previews are over, the music starts, the curtains open a bit more, and with popcorn and soda in hand I search for the inspiration in the darkened theater. We all need inspiration, will you join me?

Add your favorite quotes with the comment feature, I would love to read them. Add the movie they come from. If you don't recognize these quotes. I'll add them later after you struggle with them a little. Steve

Monday, March 09, 2009

Hiring Part Two

I am now ready for the interview. Sometimes they surprise me and wipe out my first impressions but usually I have only two questions for them...

When I was interviewed and trained to DO interviews I was given a book of questions to ask or choose from. I started with the book and the interview took over and hour and I would dutifully write down their answers so I could consult it later and remember why I hired them in the first place ... how stupid is that.

Here are some stupid questions to ask in an interview:
- Are you a self starter?
- Do you consider yourself a people person?
- Are you a leader?
- Are you a Green Bay Packers fan?
- Do you have a problem with overtime?
- Did you get good grades in school?

All of these questions will get only one response. They are basically an intelligence test and not interview questions. If ANY ONE answers “no” to these questions don’t hire them. These are leading questions and don’t get under the skin of the person.

Here are some good questions:
- Define integrity.
- What is on your bookshelf right now?
- Who needs you?
- Tell me about a time when you got in over your head and what you did about it.
- What is the greatest event in your life so far?

When I was a rookie I had the first set of questions and wondered why I really didn’t know my new employee. When I became a little seasoned I evolved to the second set of questions and enjoyed the people I worked with. After hundreds of interviews I broke even those questions down into just two. Two questions told me what I needed to know about the person beyond the non-verbal’s described in the last column. Two questions to get below the surface:
- What do you expect from me, your boss?
- What can I expect from you, my employee?

Confused? Not really, you can find out a lot about a person from those two questions. See if you can tell which I would hire based on the following answers.

What do you expect from me, your boss?
- A paycheck
- A chance to prove myself
- Two weeks paid vacation
- A company car
- Experience, guidance, and knowledge

What can I expect from you, my employee?
- My best, everyday
- Eight hours, minus breaks of course
- My support of you, to make YOU look good
- Loyalty
- The extra mile
- 40 hours a week, with time and a half for more

Which would you hire? Maybe the more important question is: Which are you?

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Hiring Part One

The nervous twenty-something sat down at a chair I offered him in the break room of the factory where I was hiring. Within a few seconds of meeting him I had a pretty good idea of whether I was going to hire him or not. Some had resumes and ties, some had torn jeans and a ratty shirt, but most had a scared look on their faces. I set them at ease with an offer of something to drink before we sat down and began the interview. After doing hundreds of interviews and hiring dozens of new employees into the company I got pretty good at getting to know people quickly. Let me give you a few quick observations about hiring for jobs.

Resumes are for pinheads. Any good manager can tell more from a handshake and a look in the eye then they could ever from a resume. Only in the MOST technical of jobs do you even need to know any kind of proficiency in tech stuff. You can ALWAYS teach someone to fix and maintain but you can RARELY teach guts, brains, perseverance and interpersonal skills. I know a lot of idiots with great resumes and there “ain’t no fix for stupid.”

Never trust educational background. With less than 50% of our high school graduates knowing how to read and most universities teaching you political views instead of calculus; I would never trust education. Most people learn to take tests. “Will this be on the exam?” And they forget as soon as the last paper is handed in. How much education and where you got it isn’t important. My degrees are more a testament to my perseverance and patience than they are to my knowledge.

Be prejudiced. Hire based on certain prejudices. I am NOT talking about skin color or gender, which makes no difference. I am talking about hiring the RIGHT people for the RIGHT job, whoever that may be. I have felt pressures from every front to hire people who were not right for the job but they were “right” for some other reason. I was asked to hire a person because their family worked in the company, because they came from a certain school, because I needed more minorities in my departments, because they had seniority, and even because they just needed a break. Resist the pressure against hiring the RIGHT person for the RIGHT job, be prejudiced.

Get under their skin. So many interviews I have been in, on both sides of the table, never get under the skin at what the person is really like. How do you get to know a person in that short of time? They walk in. Are they late, RIGHT on time, or early? You see how they are dressed. Are they OVER dressed, appropriate, or UNDER dressed? You shake their hand. Is it strong and confident, wimpy fish-like, crushing, or Monkish where they wipe after they shake? You look them in the eyes. Are they scared, averted, piercing and deep, or bloodshot? You offer them a drink. Do they graciously accept and thank you, decline and thank you, offer to pay, or have their own and pull out a JB from their pocket. You sit down with them. Do they slouch, sit at attention, cross arms and legs, lean towards you or lean away from you?

You haven’t said a word yet but you probably know whether you are going to hire them based on the first few minutes of meeting them. I am now ready for the interview. Sometimes they surprise me and wipe out my first impressions but usually I have only two questions for them ...