Apr 14, 2021--
A wishful team
➙ Hello friend, how do you build your team?
➙ Not so much of an objective question, but I shall try to give a concise answer. Domain expertise is an indispensable factor, although I am not a polymath to judge them all. Besides that, thought process matters, and the ability to act on the decisions. Furthermore, I like to work with people will not mess up the work environment; there are many toxic ways to mess it up. And, I would not miss an opportunity to include in my team those who have mastery over themselves. I also prefer working with people who knows not to make decisions when they are angry, happy or stressed. Handling emotions are vital.
➙ (Sarcastically) Concise answer it is! Let's talk them out one by one starting with thought process. Are you looking for people who think alike?
➙ Not at all. People who think alike gels well, but a team of such people does not serve well in tackling a problem because everyone thinks alike. By thought process the different ways one thinks to arrive at a particulular conclusion—whatever it is.
➙ People use their cognitive faculties in different ways. What sort of thought process will please you?
➙ I'd like to see common sense and rationale in the thought process. It tells me that I can reason with them. And working with those who I can reason with is an extremely important factor in a team. It ensures that the decisions we make are more likely to be right than otherwise.
➙ That it is. But how do you judge someone's thought process?
➙ By conversing with them about topics that are closely held to their heart, like politics and religion.
➙ Very touchy subjects.
➙ Any subject that is not touchy will not persuade the person to defend it when attacked, or tribalise when agreed with. With loosely held subjects and a job at stake, one can easily remain silent or fake an agreement with me during the conversation. But subjects like religion and politics inhibit such tendencies and will persuade the person to respond if not react.
➙ Does it matter which side the person takes?
➙ Not at all. I do not care which side you are on, but how you arrived on that side. It has to be sensible even if I do not agree with the conclusion.
➙ Here is a thought: if there is sensibility in the thought process but it so happens that you don't agree with the conclusion, does it not mean that you are not sensible?
➙ (Smiles) Not necessarily. More often, sensible or logical thought processes converges into one conclusion. But when subjective metrics and instincts are involved, two or more individuals who think logically can end up with different conclusions. Nobody is wrong here.
➙ I may agree with that. But I am not sure how effective the technique is. With a job at stake, people can stay quite or fake themselves even with closely held subjects like religion and politics. What now? How can you judge their thought process?
➙ If they can remain composed even with such closely held subjects, I am confident that despite pressures, politics, favouritism and other management evils in the corporate domain, the person can fake the right decision. And that's all that matters. We hire people with an expectation that they make right decisions.
➙ Is there be no difference at all between a sensible person and someone who fakes sensibility?
➙ There is, and I must agree that this difference is the imperfection with my evaluation method. But it is a difference that does not matter much, for in most cases, they can make the right decisions, and as one cannot fake all the time, their falsity will reveal at some point. When that happens, there are courses of actions to take.
➙ What courses?
➙ That I shall keep within ourselves (smiles).
➙ There is no perfect system. All we can do is follow a system that is the closest to a perfect system.
➙ We are all inherently bad decision makers. Our evolution depended on instinctive fight or flight decisions rather than rational thinking. Nor did our education system never train us to overcome this weakness.
➙ Which is why I go to the extent of having long conversations with those who are to fulfil key responsibilities. I need to know who is what.
➙ And when you have found something with a satisfactory thought process, what's next?
➙ The ability and willingness to act on his or her thoughts.
➙ Because thoughts by themselves will not yield results!
➙ True. Few are those who think properly, but fewer are those who act on them.
➙ What stops them?
➙ Many factors stop them from acting on their thought, and it is hard to judge what they are in an interview. But they don't matter much, at least until they are already employed, in which case, it is of utmost importance to find out the cause for inaction.
➙ (Nods) What's next?
➙ What values can the individual bring to the process and team—both culturally and knowledge wise.
➙ How do you judge that?
➙ The more I speak with the individual, the clearer I become of it. I do not want any individuals in my team who can make the environment toxic for the rest.
➙ And by toxic you mean.
➙ To put it simply, an environment where team members mingle for the sake of mingling.
➙ A dysfunctional team, it is called. What about the contribution knowledge wise? I remember you mentioning domain expertise earlier, how do you judge that?
➙ I may not judge that, but the subject matter expert will with an extensive round. I do not always equate professional qualifications for competence, especially with the way exams and evaluations are conducted these days by most institutions and boards1. I wish to rely on extensive rounds as proper evaluation methods of technical knowledge.
➙ You do value professional qualifications?
➙ Oh, I do. I don't blindly make decisiong based on certificates. You must understand that to an organisation, you skills matter—not your certificates. A shelfload of certificates is not going to do get the job done; your skills will. Professional education helps you achieve these skills no doubt; so education is your headache, not mine. Do whatever it takes for you to learn the skills—all kinds of skills.
➙ I am presuming that you don't value much of the resume too.
➙ A resume must be a balanced snapshot of what I want to know about you and what you want to me to know about you. Most resumes today are about the latter than the former. So how much I value a resume depends on what the resume tells me. Such information like your strengths, skills, professional qualification, experience, what you think you can contribute, where you think you can take the process, references to your domain expertise like an account on the Internet, are what I wish to see in a resume.
➙ I've often felt that there are some redundant parts in the common format of resume we see today, like the objective and declaration.
➙ To me, it is a waste of time, paper and toner.
➙ I feel the same. There are only two objectives to work: to make money and/or to be a part of some project a person likes. There is no other objective for anyone to work as far as I know.
➙ Nor am I aware of any HRs who actually take objective clauses seriously. And if there are, I wish to know why.
➙ Talking about other sections, most resumes mention strengths.
➙ They do, but in a mediocre manner. I often see strengths such as good communication skills, confidence, etc.
➙ Why are they mediocre strengths?
➙ They are not mediocre strengths. Mentioning them as strengths in a resume is mediocrity. Truth be said, such qualities are expected from every candidate and almost all of the candidates posses them.
➙ So what is the right manner to mention strengths?
➙ You must mention strengths that are directly applicable and are relevant to your profession. If you an engineer, your problem solving skills and algorithmic thinking are excellent skills to mention. If you are in the hospitality industry, use of positive languages and ownership of problems are relevant skills to mention.
➙ (Thinks for a while) That makes sense. So why do most people mention strengths in mediocre ways?
➙ Ignorance. Truth be said, I too have mentioned strengths in such mediocre manner.
➙ You did too!
➙ I am as much of a person as everyone is.
➙ What is the reason for ignorance?
➙ Primarily because, like most people, I too received the standard resume training: copy a popular resume format and replace some fields with your information.
➙ It is funny to see that despite our education system focusing on jobs, it does not really teach much on resume building. On an individual level, the difficulty is in finding out one's skills that can be put on the resume; those that are relevant and applicable to the profession, as you said.
➙ To mention relevant strengths, you must know yourself and the profession well. Awareness of the industry is essential to understand what strengths are relevant, and awareness of yourself is a requisite to figure out what strengths you posses.
➙ Most people are unaware of themselves.
➙ We are not trained to be.
➙ Then how do we know ourselves?
➙ Well, there are many ways, but the easier ones - so that most people can follow - are to self evaluate and value peer feedback.
➙ I understand what peer feedback is.
➙ Careful with peer feedback. Do not value everyone's feedback, most hardly know you and judge you through their metrics. What they think of you need not be true. Always have few people who know you quite well to give peer feedback. Their opinions on you are more likely to be true.
➙ Right, not tell me about self evaluation. It sounds like a therapy.
➙ All I mean is, take some moments frequently to analyse yourself, especially on how you behaved during and after certain incidents in life and the various decisions you made during the week. That will open up a window to realising what you are.
➙ Hard thing to do. I do not see very many people doing it.
➙ If you want to know yourself, you must spend time with yourself. Self evaluation will help you analyse your decision making skills too.
➙ By reflecting if your decisions were influenced by any psychological biases, effects, pre-suppositions or mental conditionings.
➙ It is a though exercise.
➙ With practice it becomes second nature.
➙ To practice one needs guidance - somewhere to start and knowledge to proceed.
➙ I am not a guru, but here are my thoughts on it. You must first have a desire to self evaluate - a desire, not a wish.
➙ What's the difference?
➙ A wish is what you want, while a desire is your wish on adrenaline. When your wish becomes a desire, you suffer from a feeling of un-fulfilment until you have achieved that desire. It is a powerful emotion that drives you. And this drive on most cases shows you the way to achieve it.
➙ A desire... and?
➙ I can only tell you what I do. And you must not mistake it to be an advise for you or someone else. The world is filled with advices and I do not want to contribute more, nor do I like telling others what to do. Instead I make and break arguments and provide perspectives. You must ultimately decide what to do.
➙ If you are over with your disclaimers, tell me what's next.
➙ First, I acknowledge that we have our cognitive biases. However we try to keep it away from our conscious mental processing, yet they seep in through our subconscious mind often influencing our heuristics. We must always approach self evaluation acknowledging that our decisions most likely would be biased.
➙ That's the default?
➙ Yes, that's the default. I then evaluate whether what I think and believe to be reasons for my actions can be substantiated with logic or facts. If it can be, it is likely that I was not a victim of any sudden emotional surges, psychological effects, pre-suppositions or mental conditioning. Or that I had an inclination towards a particular outcome.
➙ (Thinks) I can agree that gradually with such self-evaluations, you will know yourself better and perhaps even improve yourself.
➙ So here is a way to build better resumes.
➙ (Laughs So much for just a resume.
➙ Do not be so shallow minded. Remember the verse from the art of war.
If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.
➙ It helps in every aspect. I understand. So you prefer to work with those who are intellectually sound.
➙ That's an overstatement. I prefer to work with those with common sense, who can largely think straight and make decisions without biases and pre-suppositions. I do not agree that these qualities are characteristics of intellectuality because intellects can be victims of biases too. I'd like to work with those who know are emotionally sound and can handle stress.
➙ Handle stress! How's that?
➙ Truth be said, anyone with mastery over their mind can live stress free. But I shall not expect mastery from everyone, and so I will only say that I wish to work with those who knows how to handle stress once a victim to it.
➙ How do you judge that?
➙ If a person works despite being stressed, he is spoiling his work with his stress. So you test test him: give him a task, create a stressful environment and watch then.
➙ What do you expect?
➙ The person to take a break.
➙ A break? Why on earth? People work despite stress whether in real world on an interview because there is a deadline to adhere to.
➙ Only few deadlines are true deadlines. I wish to work with those people who chooses over delivering a high quality work a little late than a sub optimal work on time. It is easier to improve the speed than the quality. Talking about deadlines, here is a quote from Chris Voss from his Masterclass,
Somebody setting a deadline is an attempt to kick some progress into gear. And if it's a real deadline, there's probably less time than they actually gave you anyway.
➙ But why stop work while in stress?
➙ Because stress will destroy both you and the work you do. Tell me something, what kind of mental state is the most productive mental state?
➙ Calm and focused states.
➙ Right. So when stress seeps into your mind, are your mental faculties at its optimal state?
➙ No. It is in a miserable state, let alone a sub optimal state.
➙ If so, how do you expect work to be of quality?
➙ (Thinks) It cannot be expected to be of quality.
➙ If you complete your work despite being stressed, don't you think that you would have completed it way before and with greater quality without the stress?
➙ I believe so. We are efficient when we are calm and focused.
➙ Even if you take into account the little breaks you take to de-stress yourself, I am confident that the work will be over soon and with greater quality. Hence, I wish not to work with such professionals who do not know what stress is or cannot handle it.
➙ Well, what you're saying is hard to comprehend. Normally, stress tests are conducted—even in critical positions as special forces—to see if the person can complete the task despite the stress. And here you are, conducting a stress test to see if the person takes a break.
➙ Completing the tasks at any costs is highly critical in special forces missions—lives are at stake. Truth be said, no organisation will have such stakes as human lives and political turmoil with their processes and operations. I do not intend to say that business processes and operations are inferior; it is about the right course of actions for the right job. As I said earlier, a high quality work a little late can be preferred in 99% of cases to a sub optimal work on time.
➙ How common are such people who fit the prospect of whatever we discussed?
➙ Well, evolutionary traits shuns these qualities in us, but education and practice can mould individuals to think clearly, to make right decisions and to be rational often. It is unfortunate that our educational system, because of the misalignment of its goals, have cultivated less of such individuals.
➙ So, the job is to find them.
➙ Yes. But I am afraid one cannot find such people through any processes of recruitment. Today's recruitment processes are largely built around domain expertise and finding the right expert. It is extremely tough, if not impossible, to judge soft skills through such processes.
➙ What is your plan then?
➙ Just build my acquaintance network.
➙ So, there is no plan.
➙ That is the plan.
➙ Ah, Well, good luck with that.
➙ (Smiles) Thank you.
I agree that there are many prestigious institutions and boards who conduct stringent exams and valuations. But the majority of institutions and boards does otherwise—and they are who I mean. ↩