Are You a Coach or a Tyrant?


I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to lead others and how this gets measured in the interview process.

Two recent things have caused me to really ponder this issue about leading/managing/coaching a group of people.

First, I am high school girls basketball coach. In my first 5-6 years of coaching at the high school level I obtained mediocre results. The last couple of years, I’ve obtained extraordinary results. The quality of the kids coming into our program is no different in the last few years that it was 5-6 years ago.

So, if player quality is essentially the same, what’s the factor that accounts for the performance difference. I believe it’s my understanding of how to coach a high performing team. How do I extract a level of results from a team or group that exceeds their individual capability – the SUM is greater than the individual parts? It took me 5-6 years to get to that place.

Layered on top of those epiphanies of how to lead high performing teams comes a burning desire to “sharpen the saw” as Steven Covey called it when he wrote his book on the “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”. I am a life-long passionate learner. I can’t go to enough workshops, seminars, conferences about leading and coaching. I can’t read enough books, blogs, and magazine articles about leadership.

My current leadership focus is on teaching mental toughness. I just finished the book Jay Bilas, the ESPN commentator, wrote on the same subject. I am continually watching, observing, and documenting what other coaches and leaders do. I reading everything I can on resilience, ability to overcome obstacles and challenges, and handle criticism and negativity. I want to MASTER the process of teaching my team mental toughness. I’ve actually put a plan together of how I’m going to teach mental toughness to me team this coming season.

Completely different perspective: My son is taking an AP World History class in high school. We’ve been having lots of discussions about leadership styles since reading about all the failures of dictators and autocratic rulers. Suddenly, it set me to thinking about all the CEOs and “C” level executives I’ve worked with over the past 30 years. What’s their dominant style: are they passive, dictatorial, or coaches of outstanding teams? I have found a specialist who is helping people take practical steps to make positive changes in work and personal life at

Take these two divergent areas of thought, and I’m re-thinking: how do we measure great leaders of teams in the interview process? What do the very best leaders DO that the average and mediocre leaders DON’T do? How can translate that understanding into specific interview questions that yield strong, quantifiable, rich, detailed, and specific examples?

I’ll be sharing some of these personal observations –  from the basketball court to the executive suite – over the course of the next few months.

Here’s what I would like to hear from the readers of our blog:

When was the last time you became deeply introspective about your style of leadership?

How much time do you spend “sharpening the saw” for your own capability and impact? What grade would you give yourself in the leadership department?

What’s the ONE thing you could be better at as a leader – more importantly, what are you doing about it?

Your capability to hire and retain a great team is directly correlated to your capability as a leader. Average leadership capability yields an average team.

Let’s work together in the framework of this blog to wrap our arms around the issue of measuring “real leadership” in the interview process.

Barry Deutsch

In Your Last Interview – Did You Measure Initiative?

Employees With Initiative Hit the Bulls Eye All the Time

Employees with initiative hit the bulls eye all the time. Frequently, they exceed your targets and expectations. Is Initiative one of the major areas you focus on in an attempt to hire top talent – great employees – outstanding performers?

We’ve discovered that INITIATIVE is a primary element of success.

Top talent has extreme levels of initiative:

They anticipate what needs to be done

They go above and beyond the call the duty

They are proactive

They are step ahead of their peer group

They don’t wait to be told what to do


Who do you have on your team that demonstrates initiative? What if you could get another one or two? Measuring initiative is actually quite easy.

Initiative is a life-long pattern of behavior. You don’t wake up at 25, 32, or 47 and suddenly declare that you’re going to be proactive for the rest of your life.

The candidates who have it will share example after example with you in the interview. The ones who don’t – they’ll struggle to come up with a few substantive examples.

As many of you know, I coach high school girls basketball. We can predict the future success when a freshman (freshgirl?) enters our program from middle school/junior high. What is this one trait that separates average and mediocre performance from exceptional? You guessed it – initiative.

Have you ever played a high school sport or had children that played a sport? How do most kids treat their high school sport? Like a part-time job. They clock in seconds before practice starts and clock out seconds after it’s over. What do the very best do? They consistently show up early and stay late to work on their skills and competency.

I can observe a freshman for a few months and predict with a high degree of accuracy what she’ll be like 4 years later on our varsity team if she sticks it out for 4 years. How can I do this? By observing initiative that is an obvious pattern of superior performance. She may lack the skills, strength, and knowledge when she enters our program, but by the team she’s a senior – she’ll be a rock-star – primarily by applying herself at a much higher level than her peer group.

You can easily see this among potential applicants – regardless of the level of the job. Initiative is that one trait that acts a multiplier. Individuals without the right experience, education, missing skills, and lacking knowledge – can frequently overcome those deficiencies through initiative.

Do  you have good examples of members of your team demonstrating initiative? Do you believe this initiative is a one-time anomaly OR a pattern of consistent behavior?

This is the one trait that stands “head-and-shoulders” above other success-based behavioral traits. We find it in all top performers and we find it missing in average and mediocre employees. This is why we consider the “INITIATIVE” question to be the first question in our 5-core question interview approach.

To learn more about our 5-core question interview approach, and specifically in measuring initiative, please feel free to download one of the audio programs from our extensive library of Internet Radio Programs. You can view the different free audio programs on hiring and retaining top talent by clicking here.

Barry Deutsch

Four Things Companies Do To Shoot Themselves In The Foot When Hiring – Part 2

I recently asked over one hundred CEOs and their key executives, “Is hiring top talent critical to the success of your organization?” Not surprising that everyone replied “Yes.” Not simply important, but critical. So then I asked,”If it is critical, then how many of you spend time each month focusing on hiring, excluding when you are actively looking to fill a position?” Not surprising, only three people raised their hand.

WOW, something that is critical to the success of the organization, gets virtually zero time unless there is a current need. Is that the way most critical issues are handled in your company? No strategic planning. No thought or action discussed or taken until the problem arises? Only once the problem arises is it dealt with it. Until then it is that famous management strategy, “Out of sight, out of mind?” or “We will cross that bridge when we get there.”

I believe this management style only happens with hiring. Most other critical issues are regularly discussed, on-going programs such as, cost reductions, product development, increasing sales or market share, customer service, improving operational efficiencies are all constantly discussed and often major components of the company's strategic plan. In fact, I have seen many strategic plans that all have great plans for growth. Yet few ever include a strategy for hiring the people needed to execute the plan as the company grows. Strategic hiring is rarely part of a strategic plan.

I believe companies that truly want to hire top talent and do it on a consistent basis must avoid these four major land mines when hiring:

1) Untrained Managers – Discussed in part 1.

2) Poorly Defined Job – Discussed in part 1.

3) Finding candidates – This is one of the biggest problems faced by companies. This happens as a result of number two. Most companies search for the least qualified to start with. Then they complain that all they are seeing is unqualified candidates.

The other issue causing this problem is that most companies start the hiring process too late. They wait until they absolutely need someone. Then they expect that when they are ready to hire someone, at that moment in time, top talent will also magically appear on the market, find them, and be so compelled after reading the minimum job description to update their resume, and respond. YEAH and a multimillion dollar customer will also magically call too.

Reactive hiring is a thing of the past. Hiring top talent requires proactive hiring. This means your hiring managers must be in the market engaging people all the time. They should be connecting with people on LinkedIn, involved in professional associations, and commit at least an hour or two a month to hiring. Few managers spend any time engaging potential candidates when they aren't actively hiring. In fact, many even discard resumes as they come in if they aren't hiring. Finding top talent doesn't take a lot of time each month, but it does take a consistent monthly effort of an hour or two.

4) Disrespecting the Candidates – Top talent, especially those candidates who are working and in no hurry to make a job change (referred to as passive candidates) will walk away from a manager or company if they aren't respected in the interviewing process.

Some common complaints that left candidates feeling disrespected include:

  • The hiring manager being late for the interview. Few managers would accept it if the candidate was late, so why should it be OK for the manager?
  • Lack of  preparation by the interviewer. Again, if the candidate came in unprepared would that be acceptable?
  • Taking calls during the interview.
  • Finally, telling the candidate that if they have any further questions to call them. Then ignoring the calls. If managers don't respect the candidate during the hiring process, it isn't going to get any better once they are hired.

The interview is a PR event. These candidates will make sure others know how they were treated. They may post it on a website or hear about a person they know is interviewing and ask them about their experience. Bad PR is never a good thing. This is an easy thing to fix. It only takes treating candidates the same way you would treat a customer.

Join the other 10,000 CEOs, key executives and HR professionals and download a FREE copy of our best-selling book, You're NOT The Person I Hired. Just CLICK HERE  and under the FREE Hiring Resources section you can download our free eBook.

Retaining your best talent is always the best thing any company can do. Download our FREE Non-Monetary Rewards and Recognitions Matrix. It will help you retain your best people without additional compensation. CLICK HERE to download under the Free Resources section.

I welcome your thoughts and comments.


Unless You’re Hiring “We” – Don’t Let Candidates Hide Under the “We” Umbrella

I was recently interviewing a candidate with the CEO of the UK based umbrella company I'm doing a search for. As the candidate is answering a question the CEO stops him and says, “I hate it when people use the words we and they in their answers. I'm hiring you, not we or they, so I want to know what you did. I would prefer it if you used ‘I' instead.” I thought WOW that is a pretty strong statement and it clearly signaled to the candidate how to better answer his questions.  So what do you think was the next word out of the candidate's mouth? If you answered “I” you would be wrong. It was “we.”

It wasn't that the candidate didn't want to answer the question. It wasn't that he didn't want to follow the CEO's suggestion. He was in the habit of saying “we.”  Like most candidates, he has been trained to respond this way. Every book, coach, recruiter and outplacement firm seems to stress the need to use the word “we.” The fact is, there is a need to use the word “we” during an interview, but not all the time. As the interviewer you should help the candidate navigate these waters.

It isn't the candidate's fault for using “we and they.” I believe managers have to take some of the blame for this. For example, if a candidate uses “I” too often the interviewer often thinks, not a team player, they have a big ego, this person is arrogant, it's all about them, they couldn't possibly do all of this, or they like to take all the credit. Have you ever had these thoughts? What honest manager hasn't? As a result candidates have been trained to to respond with “we” so as to eliminate those thoughts. For the most part, managers are getting the monster they created.

A good interview is a blend of “I” and “we.” Unfortunately, the pendulum has swung too far in one direction and interviewers need to help tame the monster.  Just as the CEO did in his interview, consider working with the candidates. They are in an environment where they are not comfortable. It is not the same as when they are working and in their comfort zone. This is a common mistake made by interviewers. Cut the candidates some slack. It's an interview. Give them the same consideration you would want if you were a candidate out interviewing for a job.

Instead of eliminating the candidate, try coaching the candidate much like the CEO did. Let them know they have your permission to use the word “I.” Reassure them that you will not think they aren't a team player or have a big ego. It will take some coaching and patience so the candidate gets comfortable using “I” instead of “we.” If you help them just a little you may not lose a good candidate for the wrong reasons.

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I welcome your thoughts and comments.

Brad Remillard

How Many Interviews Should It Take To Hire Someone?

Q. How many interviews should a company have when hiring someone? Our company has 9 or 10 people meet the candidate. Some candidates complain it is too long. Is there a normal number of interviews before hiring someone?

It isn't the quantity of the interviews but the quality of the interviews that counts.  When jointly interviewing with my clients I find that the problem is that each person is asking the same basic questions as the previous interviewer. Many of them are not all that relevant to the job. So they really aren't learning anything new and neither is the candidate. These are just “get acquainted” interviews which don't serve a great purpose.

If you want to have this many interviews, your people should be trained in how to interview. Interviewing is not something one picks up along the way in their career. Or at least it shouldn't be. I would recommend bringing in a good training program. Then, once your managers learn how to interview, you can assign specific aspects of the job for each one to probe deeply on instead of just repeating the same old questions everyone else has asked.  For example, maybe one interviewer focuses on the leadership skills, another interviewer focuses on the team building, another focuses on how the candidate's experience aligns with the needs of the job and so on. Now there is value to each interview. Since each person is focusing on a specific issue there is also time to probe deeply, get the candidate to provide examples and do a thorough vetting of the candidate. It also provides adequate time for the candidate to ask questions.

The key is training your team so the interviews are not routine and canned, but rather each interviewer is skilled in the art of interviewing and has a purpose for the interview.

Join the other 10,000 CEOs, key executives and HR professionals and download a FREE copy of our best-selling book, “You’re NOT The Person I Hired.”  Just CLICK HERE  and under the FREE Hiring Resources section you can download our free eBook.

Retaining your best talent is always the best thing any company can do. Download our FREE  Non-Monetary Rewards and Recognitions Matrix. It will help you retain your best people without additional compensation. CLICK HERE to download under the Free Resources section.

I welcome your thoughts and comments.

Brad Remillard