Psychology Today

By Judith E. Glaser
Published in: Psychology Today Huffington Post

Few managers and leaders understand how vital quality conversations and interviews are to the health and productivity of a company’s culture.

Unhealthy conversations are at the root of relationships characterized by distrust, deceit, betrayal, and avoidance—leading to lower productivity, decreased innovation, and diminished results.

By learning how conversations trigger different parts of our brain, and how they either catalyze or freeze our brains in protective patterns, we can develop conversation and interview skills that propel individuals, teams, and organizations toward success.

Conversations are the way we connect, engage, navigate, and transform the world with others. A seemingly simple act such as interviewing a candidate for a job opening has the potential to alter someone’s life permanently—and change a company’s culture. Since our words are so powerful, we need to develop Conversational Intelligence®—a framework and perspective that enables us to see how conversations and interviews create powerful links between relationships and culture.

The premise of Conversational Intelligence is: To get to the next level of greatness depends on the quality of our culture, which depends on the quality of our relationships, which depends on the quality of our conversations and interviews.

Intelligent Hiring

Suppose that you have an urgent need to hire a new person to fill a job opening. You list the position, state the requisite qualifications, and receive several applications.

Now what? Bringing a new person into a culture seems like a simple, one-step process —you do an interview, and he or she either makes the cut or not. Right?

Please take note: this seemingly simple act of adding just a new person to a team can have a catalytic impact on the tone of a culture and how well team members can perform and achieve their far-reaching goals.

What to Look For in Interviews

Here are three things to look for in interviews to get in front of the curve.

  • Fit with the culture
  • Play well with others
  • Maximize the success ratio
  1. Fit with the culture. Interviews are opportunities to screen for fit with team members and with the culture, they have created. Many companies will set up interviews not only with the HR person but also with the boss and team members to determine if there is chemistry between the team and the new person.

Why? When there is no early chemistry, the conversation about the lack of fit continues to be an undercurrent in the team’s conversations. People will do workarounds and form sub-groups—sometimes without realizing it—and team cohesion and collaboration will be jeopardized.

  1. Play well with others. How well can he or she get along with others? Most companies are fostering more WE-centric, collaborative and innovative workplaces. Interviews are also opportunities to screen for how well a person gets along with others, plays well, and works to ensure that their relationships are healthy.

Why? When relationships are not healthy, and people are not getting along, it requires managers and leaders step in and try to handle those conflicts.  Unfortunately, most bosses don’t have the time or the skill for handling conflict easily.

  1. Maximize the success ratio. Is the candidate willing and able to have a positive impact on their area of responsibility, and on the success of the team and organization?

Why? Many individual jobs today require people to know how to handle interdependencies and to work across boundaries – both locally and globally. People who reach out and work with others – finding ways to engage even when there are distance challenges – bring and add great value to organizations.

Discovery Questions

Here are some questions that HR and bosses need to ask in interviews to discover what impact people will likely have on the health and potential success of the company and its culture.

HR wants to know: “Can I trust this person to be open, honest, and candid.”  Often HR people find that a candidate can be a great interview, but then show up as a different person. This metric suggests that the person is not telling the truth about their skills or their history, and this can be a big problem in the workplace. This spreads distrust among peers.

Action:  Ask the candidate questions about how they handled situations in the past. Ask them to share stories about when they were not successful to see how open they will be about failures.

Bosses want to know: “Can I trust this person to deliver what they say they can.”  This metric suggests that when things are going well and where there are challenges, this person will work to deliver and, if they can’t deliver, they will be open and transparent about it.  They will seek help and will not blame others.

Action:   Ask them to share stories about how they built relationships with peers and bosses even through difficulty. Ask them to talk about transparency – truth-telling – and most of all talk about their core values around working in and building a healthy thriving organization.

Again, the seemingly simple act of interviewing a candidate for a job opening has the potential to alter that person’s life permanently—and change the company culture. So, apply the principles of Conversational Intelligence in your interviews.

Judith E. Glaser is CEO of Benchmark Communications, Inc. and Chairman of The CreatingWE Institute; an Organizational Anthropologist, consultant to Fortune 500 Companies, and author of four best-selling business books, including Conversational Intelligence: How Great Leaders Build Trust and Get Extraordinary Results.; Contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 212-307-4386.

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