Manager Selection: Using hypothetical scenarios in interviews

When selecting for managers a common error is to equate “successful” with “good”. But as I have posted earlier regarding  what makes a “good” manager and the attributes he has,

Success is transient. Just like profit or cash-flow – it is over once it has been recognised. The success counter is set to zero once the success is “booked”.  Goodness lasts longer – it is like a balance sheet item. This financial analogy is sound. A success once booked – like profit or cash – gets transferred to the goodness in the balance sheet. It is available as a balance sheet item for future results but does not – in itself – ensure such future results. Past successes like previous profits provide a track record and an indication of things to come but do not, in themselves, ensure future success or profit. And just as a lack of profit or a shortage of cash can impair a balance sheet, a lack of success can impair a manager’s goodness.

Success and goodness are different.

Here I address the use of hypothetical scenarios in selection interviews to find the “good” manager.

The selection and appointment of managers in the business world is perhaps the single most important internal exercise in determining an organisation’s future. The success of any organisation depends primarily on having the right people in the right place at the right time. That makes manager selection and his subsequent development  critical and crucial.

A great deal of effort is therefore put into assessing individuals and their capabilities and in their training and development. Appointing a manager is relatively easy to do but rectifying a poor selection is difficult and disruptive and time-consuming. Appointing the “wrong” people as managers probably has the most far-reaching and negative consequences of any for an organisation.

Yet many interviews for selecting a manager are little more than asking about a candidate’s history – his track record. The assessor then projects this track record ( as he has understood it) into the future and then tries to “forecast” how good the candidate could be for the position in question. Even when selecting very senior managers the interviews or “discussions”  often follow this format. Far too often, little preparation and little time is spent on trying to get to those fundamental attributes of the candidate as an individual and which could qualify him as a “good” manager for the position under consideration. There is often a temptation to give too much weight to “track record”  just because it is easier to document.

I have found the use of hypothetical scenarios to be a powerful way of getting to a candidate’s “balance sheet” of attributes. Assessments are necessarily subjective but this can be countered by having two or three assessors participating in the candidate’s exploration of a well-prepared hypothetical scenario.

W3-Assessment by the use of hypothetical scenarios (pdf)

Earlier posts about workshops in the “good” manager series

W1: Goodness of a Manager (pdf)

W2: The nine attributes of a good manager (pdf)

All extracts adapted from Essence of a Manager

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