What's your credo?



Having job candidates outline their personal beliefs about leadership takes some of the mystery out of the hiring process.


QThree project managers have left our organization in as many years. We're once again looking at a dozen shiny new candidates, but how can we find out what they're really like?

A Companies bring great hopes to the hiring process, persuading themselves they've found the perfect candidate, only to find out otherwise a year later. So how can you minimize surprises? Old standards have a place—résumés, reference checking, background investigations, personality tests. Newer techniques can work, too. A quick Google search can reveal much.

The best hiring outcome I‘ve seen lately happened about 18 months ago—long enough that I can safely attest to its success. John wasn't exactly new: He'd been an aerospace project manager long ago and had moved into a sort of senior adviser role. He was approaching retirement when a major project went down in flames, and the company asked him to step in. He agreed and went home and wrote what he called his credo—Latin for I believe—a statement of the things he believed about leadership and project management. Here are some excerpts:

It's been a while since my time as project manager, and quite a number of you have joined our ranks since then. Truth in advertising would require that I disclose these things before I said “yes” to the job, but this is the best I can do at laying out what I see as my strengths and weaknesses, and also the things I believe in. Do feel free to run these by the longer-tenure folks here, as they surely have their own take on my leadership traits. But this is my view, and here goes:

  • I have no instinct for empire building, at all. None. I believe in lean organizations, and I would far rather collaborate with our peers than compete with them.
  • I am a decent negotiator on behalf of the organization and utterly hopeless when bargaining on my own behalf. I do not, however, get taken advantage of as often as you might expect.
  • I believe jobs are sacred, and no one should be deprived of them lightly. I have always worked to avoid layoffs. I believe it's immoral for management to lead firms into trouble and then expect the most junior folks to bear the brunt of the suffering.
  • My strong bias is always to hire and promote from within whenever possible. Our outside hiring has often led us astray, over-looking people in our own backyard. If we need to go outside for our next project manager, I will consider that a personal and professional failure.
  • I believe that integrity is an overused and ambiguous term, but as a minimum it means we do not lie and we do not debase our people. When we mistreat people—and we have—we take away the basic human dignity that everyone here is entitled to.
  • I intend to always approach this job with the interests of our people and project before my own. If you see me not doing this, I ask that you challenge me on it.

There was more, but you get the idea. Why not ask your leadership candidates for a personal credo? At the very least, it can serve as a measure down the line. And it might even give you enough of a glimpse into your candidates’ character to maximize your chances of making the right hire. PM

Bud Baker, PhD, is a professor of management at Wright State University, Dayton, Ohio, USA. Please send questions for Ask PM Network to [email protected]





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