One of the most fun aspects of being the author of A Preparation Guide For the Assessment Center Method is that I receive emails and phone calls from all over the country–and occasionally I’m thrilled to hear from other countries–the UK, South Africa, France, Australia and once from Russia!
That book, which I wrote in 2005 or so, has been very well received by thousands of officers of all ranks. I often meet people at conferences who tell me they have thought about contacting me to ask a question or to tell me they were promoted–or to share their frustrations over not being promoted. However, they didn’t do it because they didn’t think I’d care or want to be bothered. They obviously don’t know the level of interest I have in anyone who is involved in promotional testing! Of course I care and it’s never a bother.
Free Assessment Center Preparation Material
Free Law Enforcement Promotional Testing Material.
I also have other material that I use in my assessment center preparation seminars and some that will go in the second edition of the book, coming out this year. I’ll be happy to send helpful material, without charge, to anyone who requests it.
If you’d like some free material, contact me on the contact form. I’d like to know the department, the rank involved, and anything else you want to share about your efforts. I won’t bother you again and everything I receive is confidential. I just like to be a resource–but I do like to know a bit about who I’m sending things to.
I do the same thing with church safety and security material and have sent many thousands of free documents to church leaders and police officers who have requested that information. (If you’d like that at the same time, let me know.)
If you would like FREE training material on how to be more successful in your law enforcement promotional testing, contact me and let me know how I can help.
I saw this sign on the door of my nearby OfficeMax and simply had to take a photo. Wouldn’t it be nice if all jobs were posted so honestly?
NOW HIRING: Hard Worker Who Won’t Complain About Everything He/She Is Asked To Do, Three Weeks After Being Hired.
APPLICATIONS NOW BEING TAKEN: Obsequious, fawning sycophant. Other knowledge and skills only minimally necessary.
JOB OPENING: Need steady employee to take the place of the malingering, excuse-making, habitually late one we’re going to fire as soon as he gets here.
As it turns out–nothing is as ever fun as it seems–this sign was for the position of supervisor in the ImPress section (copies and printing). He or she is supposed to ensure accuracy of orders so I hope he or she corrects the spelling on the next Now Hiring sign, from Impress to ImPress.
Nevertheless, I enjoyed seeing the sign and wondered what they would do if someone showed up to say they certainly could impress a supervisor and would like to start immediately.
I once asked my group to help me develop some descriptions for a position into which someone would be transferred. I expected, “must be able to use Word proficiently” or something of that nature. Instead I received lists with descriptions like, “Must be in a good mood upon arrival, not after three cups of coffee.” “Can’t be weird acting.” “Grown up who is not in need of babysitting.” “Approximately well-balanced mentally.” “Can just do the work, please.”
Challenge yourself to think of what others–supervisors, coworkers and clients–would honestly say they want from someone in your job. Their wants may be unrealistic or incorrect for the work, but it can be a good way to consider if you can provide just a bit of it. Think how it would impress them!
There is a difference between a warning and an admonishment–but many supervisors don’t recognize the difference and fail to warn in a way that prevents a problem in the future.
An Admonishment Is Mild But Pointed Advice
An admonishment is a brief word of advice, counsel, maybe mild-mannered reproof. ”Becky, you do a great job when you get here, but you’ve been late three times now. We need you here on time, especially on the days you open up.”
An admonishment can also be delivered using a light tone and even a slightly humorous approach: ”Hey Ken, stop throwing trash in the parking lot, it looks bad enough without your generous contributions.”
For most situations, an admonishment is enough to get good results. I recall the thought in a book for police sergeants: “To a mature employee a suggestion is construed as an order.”
Unfortunately, supervisors and managers often think an admonishment is a sufficient warning and they are frustrated and angry when the employee does the thing again. If they want to make sure the employee doesn’t do it again, they need to warn and give consequences.
A Warning Is A Promise About What Will Happen
A warning can be formal or informal, verbal or written. “Becky, you’re doing a good job otherwise, but you’ve been late three times now. The next time you’re late I’m going to have to put it in your permanent record and give you a formal reprimand. I don’t want to have to do that, so be on time from now on.”
Or, “Ken, after the last incident with you throwing trash in the parking lot after I had asked you not to, I recommended a formal warning and HR approved it. This is your last warning. The next incident will result in loss of a day off.”
Employees Get As Confused as Supervisors
Last week an employee complained to me that she was getting in serious trouble because she continued to do something after she was warned not to. She said she hadn’t been warned, in fact her supervisor was laughing about it when he talked to her so she didn’t take it seriously.
The supervisor’s view was that a reasonable person would know his light-hearted remarks were a warning. I asked him if he had, in the midst of being light-hearted, told the employee what would happen if she did it again. He said no, but surely she realized she would get some sort of sanction.
Was that an effective warning or merely an admonishment? His HR Department and his manager viewed that he had not warned the employee because he hadn’t told her what would happen next. His manager told him that if he had warned her, it would also have reminded him that he had an obligation to follow through, whereas with an admonishment there is no follow-through mentioned.
The bottom line: The reason many employees continue their problematic behavior or performance is because they are admonished, but they are not warned. The reason many supervisors get frustrated with continual problems is that they think they are warning, but without consequences it’s just advice that the employee may not take.
I like the warning on the sign in the photo. I asked a police officer in that town, Griffin, Georgia (my place of birth), if many people hit the bridge. He said it happens now and then, but not nearly as often as it did when the sign just said, “Danger, Low Bridge. No trucks or loads over 16′ high.”
Knowing the consequences and knowing what actions will result in those consequences can make all the difference in what a person does next.
The most effective managers and supervisors actively seek employee ideas and opinions on a regular basis, not just when big decisions are being made. Those who are regularly doing a task may have excellent ideas for how the task can be done more efficiently or effectively. Nevertheless, it is important for managers and supervisors as well as employees to remember that ideas and opinions should be used as part of decision-making–not used in place of well thought-out decisions by managers and supervisors.
New supervisors and managers: The idea of carefully evaluating employee input is especially crucial for new supervisors and managers. They may be anxious to build rapport with their new staff or team but do not yet have a grasp of the big picture. As a new manager don’t act too quickly in your effort to gain acceptance. Wait until you understand the totality of work and the ramifications of the ideas you are hearing.
•Ideas for one person or group may have a negative effect on others. A new form, method or process that will work very well for John or Janet may create tremendous burdens for everyone else. In addition to listening to employees, managers should communicate with other managers before making decisions that have a larger impact. Then, explain the issues as a way to help the employee learn to see the bigger picture, even if he or she still has a preference.
•Employees do not usually have the level of knowledge about larger issues that managers have–or should have. When the Denver Police Department was planning for World Youth Day and the visit of Pope John Paul II, two officers with a lot of tenure thought it was very funny that I was looking at information on Porta-Potties. In response I asked them how many portable toilets they thought we would need for 500,000 people, how many were in the state of Colorado and what it would take to get enough here in time. After they looked at the information and realized what a challenge it would be, one of them said, “That’s the trouble with our mayor, he says yes to everything. He should have said we didn’t want World Youth Day here because it’s so much work for the city.”
•Employees ideas may be purposely or inadvertently self-serving. Most employee suggestions don’t mention a downside or potential problem. If you’re the manager or supervisor you need to be thinking of those. When employees have suggestions about issues with which you’re not completely familiar, ask them to provide you with the things that could go wrong and how those could be avoided. Then, get other input before deciding.
A manager of a large group commented that almost all the improvement suggestions he received involved what employees thought they could stop doing for customers, what safety procedures they could eliminate or what rule was no longer needed. He said after five years he had only received two or three ideas for how employees could provide better service or be more efficient in their use of resources. His example may not be typical–but it isn’t unusual either. I think that phenomena is called human nature.
•If there are bad results, it is most likely the implementing manager or supervisor who will be held responsible, not the employees who made the suggestion. It’s inevitable that some decisions will not work out well. Usually those are fixable and work moves on. However, managers and supervisors should have better reasons for their decisions than, “Bill and Gloria said it was the best way to do it.” Ideas should be welcomed and carefully reviewed, not welcomed and implemented without review.
Some of the most serious or tragic errors I have heard about–or made myself–were the result of decisions based primarily on the clamoring input of staff or group members. Often they are so close to the work they see no other options–and there are nearly always options. That is why, whether we’re talking about work, government, the military, a surgical team, a family or anything else, checks and balances and unbiased input are needed.
A good rule: If you think to yourself: I’m approving this against my better judgment, use your better judgment and don’t approve it, at least not right then.
When you’re the employee with a suggestion or opinion: Make it your goal to gain the knowledge, skills and insights needed to give valuable input. Do self-evaluation of your ideas to ensure they reflect the needs of the organization and its customers and clients. Also remember that the person to whom you’re making the suggestion may respect you, like you and want to encourage you–but still have reasons for not adopting or supporting your ideas. That’s not a slight to you, just a reality of work.
The bottom line: It is a laudable concept to seek the input and ideas of employees. However, the responsibility of managers and supervisors is to listen, evaluate and make final decisions, based on many criteria and considerations.
In the picture above, Patton was listening to a soldier–a trait for which he was well known. He was sincerely interested in the thoughts of soldiers in the field. However, you can bet he didn’t suggest a military strategy to General Eisenhower by saying, ”Private Smith said the guys all want to attack from this direction because it will save time. I would hate for them to think we don’t value their input, so let’s do it their way.”
To Improve Your Credibility, Cite Your References
•Most serious conversations are peppered with opinions, ideas and general thoughts, but rarely with verbal footnotes.
•Most casual conversations are about interests and activities but rarely include even a hint about how the participants learn anything new–if they do.
•At work, we are often quick to say how things should be done or done differently, but we don’t cite anything to support our suggestions.
•We start on a new project or are given a new assignment and anyone hearing us talk about it would assume we are learning by doing, not by studying or researching.
•We’re interviewed for a job, promotion or in-house assignment change and we answer questions without referring to the training, reading, researching or self-initiated experience we used as a basis for our responses. So, for all the interviewers know, we just pulled the answers out of our hats–or elsewhere.
Let Others Know How You Know What You Know
All of those situations are reasons why we should keep ourselves informed, aware and knowledgeable–and let others know about our efforts when it’s appropriate to do so. You don’t have to drop book titles and college classes in every conversation, but you certainly can let people know, now and then, that you keep yourself informed. Let them know you are continually expanding your perspectives. At the very least, introduce some new topics into your conversations.
“I just started (or finished or are reading) a really interesting book about ____ .”
“I’ve talked to four or five other supervisors to help me figure out the best way to deal with this.”
“I wanted to refresh my thinking on this subject and I saw they were going to do a show about it on TV, so I watched it.”
“I had been hearing about _______and I did some Internet research on it. It was a lot of new information for me.”
“We were taught that technique in training a few months ago so I tried it and it worked!”
“I know that ________suggests handling this in a different way, but I’ve given it a lot of thought and read as much as I could on it, and I think we should ____.”
“Over the years I’ve watched how supervisors like ___, ____ and____ have handled conflicts. I’ve developed responses that I think combines the best of all them.”
Those kind of attributions and acknowledgements may not present you as the genius who thought of everything yourself, but they let people know you are aware of the need to keep learning and to apply what you’ve learned. That’s even better!
In February I wrote an article about my friend, Pete Palmer, who was running for sheriff of Chaffee County, Colorado. I said we all want votes–it’s just that his would get counted more officially than ours. Well, the votes have been counted and he won!
I’m confident that Pete will be extremely effective as a sheriff. He has a strong foundation of experience and is overall a great person. Many of his friends and colleagues are providing free or low cost professional resources in the coming months. He meant all that he said during his campaign and has plans for all that he promised.
However, sometimes the reality of life, work and situations get in the way of our best intentions, no matter how committed and dedicated we are. For one thing, we must work with and through others to get things done and you know how challenging that can be–often for them, as well!
So, Pete has a lot of things to accomplish. Many people (especially the sheriffs department employees) will be waiting to find out if he lives up to his promises. Your friends, family and coworkers are thinking the same thing about you.
What kind of person, coworker, manager, supervisor, friend or family member have you promised to be or claimed to be? Next, think about what you have done or said that could prove to people that you really are those things.
If you had a platform, what would it be? What proof could you use to show that you consistently live up to (that’s a great phrase, when you think about it!) the good qualities you’ve promised to deliver and the level of work you claim is your habit? What do you do regularly to make people glad you were hired, glad you are a friend or family member, glad you are the one assisting them or providing service or glad that they have supported you?
For Pete Palmer, the reality is that he already is running for re-election. That’s true for the rest of us as well: Every day is voting day. How is your campaign coming along?
Be able to prove what you claim to be
Many of us have become accustomed to hearing or reading exaggerations, wild accusations, half-truths, all-lies and urban legends. It seems the world is made up of those who believe it all and those who believe nothing anymore. However, when it comes to work and our efforts to develop professionally, all of us need to be able to show proof–to ourselves and others–about all the positive traits and actions we claim for ourselves.
Apply that concept when you are interviewed for a position–or when you interview someone for a job. Apply it when you are wondering why your good qualities aren’t being appreciated. Apply it when you want to have a reputation for being a strong contributor, a nice person or an expert in an area. Be able to provide proof in the form of examples over time. If some examples don’t immediately pop into your mind, your good qualities may not be as obvious as you think.
• Do you contribute to your work team in a way that gets good results with them and others? Prove it. What are some things you have done in the past and recently, where others in your group have thanked you, asked for your assistance, referred others to you or when your contribution was requested, needed or clearly was a help? If you really are contributing, you’ll have some examples without thinking about it for a few minutes.
• Do you communicate effectively, even when it’s difficult? Prove it. Give an example of a time in the last few weeks when your purposeful communication calmed a conflict, reduced contention or eased a conversation into a better path. To claim it as a full-time trait, you should have several examples.
• Do you do self-initiated work that is high in quality and high in quantity, based on the needs of your organization and your manager? Prove it. Give examples from the last week and going back for several months, of some tasks you have done that were effective, needed, and self-initiated, while you also did your regular, required work.
• Has someone implied you are problematic in an area of your work and you think they’re wrong? Prove it. Rather than asking them to give you an example of what you’ve done wrong, be prepared to give a plethora of examples of what you have done that shows you are performing and behaving correctly.
You get the idea. Anyone can say they have done good work, do good work and will do good work. The person who is actually doing it will have so many life experiences to draw from that the examples are ready to give. On a regular basis, think about what you have accomplished and what it took to do it. If necessary, make a list to help you remember. Keep an active mental file of how you are demonstrating effectiveness every day.
What if you don’t have proof? If you find you have very few clear examples to provide, consider how to remedy that lack. Perhaps you need to try new methods or be willing to learn new skills. Maybe you need to stop doing some things and start doing others. Perhaps you should back off or maybe you should step forward. Talk to a professional friend who seems to be on track or talk to to your supervisor or manager. Ask their opinions about your work and ask for suggestions about how you can be what you want to be in the best way possible. Then, be willing to make changes or adjustments to do things a bit differently in the future.
That way, if you are developing a resume, being interviewed for a new job or a promotion, or being asked about your work, you can say, “Examples? Sure! How much time do you have?”
Can you tell by looking?
In 1917, William F. Kemble, an engineer who was engaged in introducing standardized hiring and promotional tests for business and industry, wrote Choosing Employees By Test. (Industrial Management Library, The Engineering Magazine Company. New York.) Kemble was a strong advocate of the scientific and mathematical approach to business and industry. This was at a time when large businesses were using efficiency experts, vocationalists and labor standardizers--early versions of Human Resources staff.
Mr. Kemble believed that almost all knowledge, skills and aptitudes could be determined by a series of written and physical tests which could be administered in a relatively short amount of time and used as a basis for hiring and promotion. Some of his ideas will sound familiar:
If employers so desire, the initial record found by the tests given to each applicant may be followed up by monthly reports of work accomplishments, all reduced to a card system. Upon these records can be based many decisions about employment, raises or promotions which would otherwise be done by guesswork or favoritism.
Unfortunately he mixed science and his personal opinions a great deal. One of his tests involved having candidates for an executive position answer questions about the potential of scientific and engineering accomplishments. (Could there be a building ten times taller than the Woolworth Building? Will man ever be able to tunnel from Alaska to Asia? Will wireless power ever be developed for areoplanes? Will gold ever be transmuted from base metal?) The results of the tests as well as the way candidates acted as they were taking it, were ranked in this way: Idiot, Chaotic, Normal, Intelligent, Executive. (Which would you be?)
One of Kemble’s supposedly scientific tests involved comparing a photograph of a potential employee to lists of “common physical manifestations of mental and moral characteristics.” In this way he believed he could tell if a person was intelligent, a drunkard, petulant, lazy, moral, in good health, good with mathematics or any of dozens of other traits. He assigned points to each facial characterisic so the overall intelligence or morality of an applicant could be given a numerical rating.
The full-face and profile photos at the top of this article are part of such a test. He knew the people in the photographs and had a sample of one hundred good salesmen guess the answers to his questions. They had a 66% to 79% correct response rate. Thus, he reasoned, a potential salesperson should have a similarly correct rate of response.
These were the characteristics applicants matched to the photographs:
Quick in action.
Very temperate in drink.
Constant church goer.
Sadly for me, the correct answers weren’t provided! What do you think?
Kemble’s book has recently been scanned and published by Nabu Press, as having historical significance. However, I have an original edition, which I found in one of my old-book hunts years ago. It has 333 pages of small print, all focused on what he was sure was the future of employment testing. Some of it was logical and accurate and much of it was not. He apparently did not write another book and also did not make enough of a mark on the world of business that he is cited in other sources. I feel badly about that because he sounded so earnest, dedicated and convinced. As a result, I wanted to honor him here by sharing his photo and a little bit about his work. I hope he had a happy life, contributed to the happiness of the lives of others and felt he was successful. I wish that for you, too!
William Fretz Kemble
You’ll hear these remarks often in meetings or business conversations:
“I wish we could do that.”
“Maybe we can do that one of these days.”
“I sure wish they would do that.”
“I’ll have to try to get that started sometime.”
“I don’t think there is anything we can do about that.”
“There’s no way I can make it better.”
“I’d love to help you, but I’m low level in the business.”
“It’s a good idea but I’m sure they wouldn’t approve it.”
What if the conversations sounded like this, instead:
“I’ll get started on it.”
“Give me a month and it’ll be done.”
“You have my word on it. I’ll make it happen.”
“I’m going to give it my best effort, you can bet on that.”
“I’ll do something about it the minute I hang up the phone.”
Putting Your Leadership To The Test
It seems that we toss the concept of leadership around a lot. Many people read books on leadership, talk about it, lament that there isn’t more of it and fancy that they are leaders. In promotional processes, nothing is more common than to hear a candidate say he or she takes a leadership role. The interview panel thinks: “Oh yeah? What have you done that has led others to something good?”
So, that can be a test of your leadership in your corner of the world: What have you done lately to make good things happen? What you done to move an idea from concept to reality? What you done to facilitate, champion or do the tough work for a project that is worthwhile?
Of course, there are situations where we suggest or try and are told no. There may be good reasons for that or not. However, more often, we don’t even try–we anticipate the no. Or, we wait for someone else to make things happen, then we support them. Or, we procrastinate until after the holidays or after vacation or after the budget gets approved or whatever. If there is something you can help make happen–do it now. I used the photo above, of am Amish farmer plowing a field, because I am so often reminded that everyone wants a bumper crop but few want to get behind the plow, be the plow, or pull the plow.
Brian Hill of Mental Ammo Made Things Happen.
Last year I was contacted by Brian Hill, about conducting an advanced instructor class for his organization. Brian also has his own website and does training and consulting. He didn’t know me and had no particular reason to ensure he made things happen for the training—but he did. On his own he made the contacts, did the convincing and set things up. Then, he followed through with all the details involved. He did an outstanding job and I appreciated it all very much.
Brian could have talked about the training for months or years. He could have said it was a shame the inspirational and fascinating speaker and trainer, Tina Lewis Rowe, hadn’t been asked to present the class. (I put that in bold, so a search bot might pick it up.) He could have put it on his “To Do” list and done nothing. Instead, he moved forward, made the effort and showed his leadership. And the class was great!
What Can You Make Happen?
It’s easy for us to talk big about what we could do, could do and might do. The big question is: What have you done and what is in the works? Another question is: What have you vaguely promised you might try to get accomplished but so far have done nothing about?
Starting today and in the future, you be the one who makes things happen.
Pete Palmer is running for Sheriff of Chaffee County, Colorado.
What office are you seeking?
The other day I received a press release from Pete Palmer’s campaign, announcing his candidacy for Sheriff of Chaffee County, Colorado, a gorgeous county in central Colorado.
I’ve known Pete for about thirty years (oh my!) so I was happy to see him planning to use his tremendous knowledge and skills in that way. Instead of wishing him the best I will wish the citizens of Chaffee County the best: Pete Palmer!
Pete has a website that tells about him, his history as a police officer and commander, and his accomplishments in commanding and directing police training missions overseas. He was also the commander of the six hundred and five police officers with the U.N. Civilian Police in Kosovo. Check out his website and photos.
The website also provides an overview of what Pete Palmer promises to provide the citizens of Chaffee County:
Independence of Judgment and Action;
Transparency and Openness of Operations;
Professional Law Enforcement Management.
What do you promise to provide?
I often say that every day is an assessment center or that every day is a job interview. I could add to that, “every day is an election day.” The idea behind those thoughts is that we are continually building our reputations and relationships. Every day someone is observing us or interacting with us and forming opinions or making decisions. We do the same thing about others.
Every day is a chance to show others how effective we are in in our work, school or family.
Every day is a chance to show what kind of spouse, parent, friend or coworker we can be.
Every day someone we know or someone new, interacts with us and forms new opinions or reinforces old ones.
What three reasons to vote for you would you list on your website? If you were to develop a website to showcase your strengths, what three strengths would you list? What three promises would you make? What three things would you say are the hallmarks of the kind of person you are and will be?
Think about that this week and consider how much differently you might do things if you were trying to get votes to keep your job, get that new assignment or promotion, be considered a good friend, be thought of as a loving spouse or parent, or be voted for Loving Contributor Around the House or Great Asset To The Workplace.
Pete Palmer approaches it in the way we should: He doesn’t just say what he has done; he shows how what he has done can be used effectively in the future. If he is elected, he’ll need to live up to those promises–just like we have to do in our work and in our relationships. What we have done is important, what we say we will do, is important too. However, what we are doing has the most impact on how we are viewed today.
Pete Palmer will be voted on for Sheriff of Chaffee County, Colorado in November, 2010.
You are being voted on for something today and every day.