Today's Challenge: Divining Leadership Capacity

As you may know, on Fridays I respond to a question from a reader. Today is another good one. I’ve written previously about how important it is for a leader to find ways to grow his or her capacity. Today’s question is: How do you discern inherent leadership capacity when interviewing a candidate?

As when using divining rods to search for water, the search for leadership capacity can produce unpredictable results. I talked to a leader this week who lamented a new senior leader was not working out like he hoped. Unfortunately, he was going to have to make a change. He told me the individual under fire interviewed great! Another false positive and a dry hole - no water there.
I wish there was a magic formula or a guaranteed path to always get this one right; if it exists, I don’t know it. I have discovered a principle that helps. It’s not only applicable for capacity issues; it has broad application when evaluating people…

The best predictor of future performance is past performance.

So, as the principle implies, if you want to know what someone’s future capacity will be, try to determine how they’ve demonstrated and expanded their capacity in the past.
Here are a few things to look for…

  • How did they expand their previous roles?
  • What examples of “above and beyond” behavior can they cite from their past?
  • What do they do outside of the workplace? Capacity is not confined to the office.
  • What did they do in college? Were they part of clubs and extracurricular activities?
  • What, specifically, have they done in the past to increase their capacity?
  • How have they helped others grow their capacity in the past?
  • Ask the candidate to share an experience when they felt they were at their limits regarding capacity, and then ask them what they did to move forward.
  • You may even gain an insight into the issue of capacity if you ask a candidate to share with you some of the goals they’ve accomplished in the past.

I hope this helps. Just like the divining rod, sometimes you and I will miss the mark when selecting people. Don’t beat yourself up. Just learn from the experience and try again. The more you do this, the better you’ll get.[GLS_Shield]
PS One more idea: Targeted referencing is a powerful tool to discern capacity - or anything else you need to know. If you're not familiar with the concept, it's simple. Determine your areas of specific interest or concern BEFORE you begin referencing. Then, design your questions around the targeted topic or concern. You may be surprised what you can learn from this approach.

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