Coach's Corner

5 Minute Read

If you get the chance to talk with our Director of EntreLeadership Coaching and Community for a few minutes, you’ll quickly realize there is something compelling about John Felkins. No, it’s not his zany sense of humor or even his incredible depth of business knowledge. It’s simply that he’s crazy passionate about his job, and his enthusiasm is infectious. He truly loves helping small business owners and leaders succeed. And he works with many of them every day, both in person and online.

John recently stopped by our EntreLeadership Podcast studio to take help to a whole new level. He and host Chris Hogan answered business questions sent in by our listeners. Here’s a sampling of their conversation.

Chris: Let’s talk. As you’re dealing with people in the hiring process, they’re going to put on their best face. So how do you, as a leader, get past the façade to find the real person?

John: We like to start by looking at their experience. It gives us a good indicator of what they really have to offer. Then we always ask, “What’s one of the biggest challenges or even a failure you’d be willing to share with us, and what did you learn from it?” It really gives you a window into how they deal with adversity, and it frequently pulls back the curtain on who they really are as a person.

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Chris: To me, it would sound like a trap. Immediately, you’re asking me for a weakness? Is that necessary?

John: I think it’s different than asking about a weakness. A lot of times, a challenge is external. You didn’t elect for it to come to you. That question shouldn’t be the first one you ask, though. You need to build a little rapport before going down that road.

Chris: During the interview process, what are some red flags that make you say, “This person can’t join my team”?

John: A values misalignment is the biggest red flag. It means there are areas in the interviewee’s life that are not as important to that person as they are to you. If that happens, it should be the end of the line for the candidate. In our hiring process, we start with a really quick drive-by interview, where we find out if their values line up with ours. You don’t want to invest a lot of time in someone who’s not going to work out.

Chris: Here’s another biggie we get asked all of the time. How do you provide correction to someone without crushing their drive?

John: The best way we’ve found is what Ken Blanchard, author of The One Minute Manager, calls a reprimand sandwich. It’s where you sit down and have a conversation with the team member. The first point you hit is how you value them. Let them know they’re important to the organization. It transitions into the conversation about the miss that occurred. Then it’s followed up with: “But you know what, Chris? You’re doing a great job. I appreciate everything that you’re doing. You really did this well last week.” You sandwich the reprimand between two pieces of affirmation.

Chris: If trust has been broken in a company, how do you rebuild it and where do you start?

John: If you’re the one who broke the trust, then you have to own it. You must be willing to go to people and say, “I messed up. This is what I did and I’m sorry. I know it is inconsistent with what I’ve said should be done in the situation, and I apologize for how it’s impacted you. I won’t let it happen again.”

Chris: Let’s move on to the next question. How do I have an employee meeting without it turning into a gripe session?

John: It’s going to be awkward. But when you hear the first comment that’s negative, you need to say, “I know I’ve allowed this to go on in meetings in the past. But negativity is toxic. It doesn’t get us anywhere. So, we’re not going to do it anymore. We’re going to stay on the agenda. We’re going to stay on task. If there is a problem, state the problem. Maybe we’ll put it over here on this whiteboard and revisit it later. But we’re not going to waste our time with negativity.”

Chris: What if they say, “That’s not letting me tell you what I think”?

John: You know what? You can tell me about the problem, but don’t whine about it. Don’t carry on about how it’s so terrible. Just state the problem for what it is and let’s see if we can fix it.

Chris: A listener asks, “What are some good books for leaders to read on building a winning culture?”

John: There are a ton of good leadership books out there, and I try and read as many of them as I can. We’re all familiar with the classics, like Good to Great, QBQ and Thou Shall Prosper. They’re all great business books. But one of my secret weapons on learning how to create a great company culture is to read good biographies of great leaders.

When we sit down and read a biography on Lincoln, Washington, Winston Churchill or one of those guys that did big things in history, we learn. You see how they created a culture. You see how they inspired people, even an entire nation, to follow them. I really encourage leaders to mix in biographies and historical books with the leadership books they’re reading.

For even more of the conversation with Chris and John, check out our latest podcast

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