Hiring the right people is one of the most challenging hurdles leaders face in any organization. In financial services, it is far more complex than in almost any other field of business. We face issues in regulatory law; complexity in products and services; communications and relationship requirements with clients, vendors, and distribution channels; and more paperwork than the military! Training people in a financial services position takes time and money. A wrong hiring choice is not easily corrected, especially taking into account OSHA requirements.

I have faced this challenge many times over the past 20 years, while helping businesses and large corporations make it through transitions and turnarounds. This usually required replacing or repositioning individuals in the organization. Out of this I concluded that there were eight criteria that affected successful job performance. They are:

1) Primary Motivation

2) Skills and Capabilities

(Worked in the industry?)

3) Conative Abilities

(Intellectual, I.Q., etc.?)

4) “Street Smarts”

(Think on their feet,

politically savvy, etc.?)

5) Affective-Relational Makeup? (Myers-Briggs, DISC, S.E.T., etc.)

6) Cognitive Profile (Instinctive problem solving makeup: Kolbe Aâ„¢)

7) Risk Management

8) Courage

Each of these criteria plays an important role in anyone’s job performance. Evaluating them in an interviewing process poses a greater challenge. Let’s start by identifying what each one means.

Primary Motivation:

I have found that there are three basic motivations that people carry in job situations:

Money for self


A desire for the

good of the whole

All of us possess some of each of these drives; the question becomes “What is the percentage of each?” The interesting aspect of this question is that different job positions work better with a different motivation as the primary driver.

For example, if I am hiring someone in a sales position that includes performance incentives, I want at least 50 percent of his or her primary motivation to be money. On the other hand, hiring for an executive management position requires at least 50 percent of his or her primary motivation to be drive for the good of the whole. If the position is one of team leader or department manager, individuals that are fairly well balanced between the good of the whole and ego/power seem to provide the best performance. An executive that is primarily driven by ego/power or money for him or herself may produce good short-term financial results but have a devastating effect on the corporate culture and long-term value of the company.

Skills and Capabilities:

This element of performance is simply the skills people possess. It should include their education, training, and past job duties and responsibilities. Assessing this element involves determining how people fit their positions. What are their professional experiences, successes and failures? How effective are they at problem solving? Are they able to effect change? Do they have appropriate training?

Cognitive Abilities:

How bright is the individual? Is he an encyclopedia of information? Does he grasp new concepts in an instant and leave you feeling he had a 1600 on his SATs in high school? Is his vocabulary broad, or do you feel as if your conversation is taking place at the local sports bar? Cognitive skills can play an important role in the hiring decision. Challenging positions may require a lot of “brainpower,” while other roles will leave an individual bored and unmotivated because the duties do not challenge and exercise his brain cells sufficiently.

Street Smarts:

Street smarts differ from skills, capabilities, and cognitive strengths. Is a person effective at managing changing day-to-day reality? Is she quick at assessing your company’s current situation? How effective has she been at assessing and managing “political circumstances” that are present in all companies? Does she have a good sense for how to get things done? Does she know when to take the blame, and how to accept criticism? These factors and many others reflect the level of an individual’s “street smarts.”


Relational Makeup:

What is a person’s style for communicating with and relating to others? Is he an introvert or an extrovert? Does he “go with the flow” or is he sequential/lineal? What teams will he be working with, and how will his relational style affect his performance?

Conative Profile:

Conative energy is an evaluation of how people:

Gather information

Organize information

Improvise information

Use tools to create, based

on the information

Kolbe Corp., based in Phoenix, Arizona, has built a wonderful set of tools that measures the energy one has in each of these “Modes.” The modes are labeled Fact Finder™, Follow Thru™, Quick Start™, and Implementor™. Years of testing and research indicate that these characteristics are “instinctive,” that is, they are wired into each of us, and that they do not change over the course of our lives. This is important to understand, as, based on how much energy you have in each mode, you may “initiate activity,” be “adaptive” as needed, or be “resistive” in fulfilling tasks that require action in a given mode.

For example, I “initiate” in Fact Finding. This means I love to gather information, do the research, and dig down deep. The advantage? My Fact Finding helps reduce and mitigate risk. The disadvantage? How much information is enough? I can suffer from “paralysis by analysis.” I am also Adaptive in Follow Thru™. If there is a structure, system, or process in place, I am happy to follow it. If there is not one and it is necessary, I will create one, but it will tax my natural energy, wearing me out far faster than doing “research.”

I also “initiate” in Quick Start™. This means I have an easy time coming up with new ideas, sharing a vision, and sounding very inspirational in doing so. I also have a lot of energy for adapting to what is happening around me, as I love change. The disadvantage? If today’s vision is good, tomorrow’s vision will be even better, and since my “vision” was so complete and inspired, it must be “easy” to fulfill it. (Not quite!)

I am also resistive in Implementor™. This means I have a limited amount of energy for “building things.” I can craft effective written materials — just don’t ask me to create and bind the 150 copies that will be distributed at my next speech. Guaranteed, pages will be missing, out of order, not enough of them …. You get the idea.

There are no “wrong” conative profiles. Each of us is unique and “perfect” in who we are. There are conative profiles that will cause people to have a very difficult time with certain job duties and responsibilities that may force them to work very hard in a resistive action mode.

[If you would like to learn more about Kolbe systems, visit www.kolbe.com, or if you would like to invest $50 for a Kolbe Aâ„¢ test to find out your own profile, visit www.kolbe.com/vestment.]

Managing Risk:

Evaluating how a person views and reacts to risk is an important element in any hiring

decision. Constant change, whether in regulatory law, tax law, or corporate strategies, seems to be the only constant in today’s business climate. Different job positions require different levels of risk tolerance, and it is important to determine if an individual

Has a survivor mentality and

avoids risk as much as possible

Thrives on risk

Manages risk wisely


Courage is not the same as managing risk. Courage is the intangible quality than makes some people able to take on a formidable task while others freeze in their tracks. A person may have great insight in assessing and evaluating risk. This does not necessarily mean he or she has the courage to act.

Some years ago I was mentoring a senior vice president of a major corporation that was going through a significant change. This individual was responsible for 50 percent of national production. What was his greatest strength? Incredible insight into the risks involved in making the change, as well as being a great communicator with his teams in leading the change. He had an almost instinctive ability to manage risk. What was the greatest challenge? He had a massive fear of being “politically” shot down by others in the organization, despite reporting directly to the president. The president constantly had to assure him he had direct “political air cover” during the time of change.

Now that we have reviewed the eight criteria for effective job performance, I want to share a simple tool for labeling individual’s ratings within these criteria. I call this tool Red Light, Yellow Light, Green Light™.

The premise is a simple one: A Red Light means significant problems. Red Lights only offer three options:

You can change the tasks, duties or responsibilities of the position to eliminate the Red Light.

You can move the individual into a position in the company that is not affected by the Red Light.

You can help the individual find a new career path outside your organization.

A Yellow Light means there are some issues, but they probably can be overcome through training, coaching, management, or filling in gaps through a team.

A Green Light means trust and confidence in an individual’s ability to perform.

A simple way to view this would be by this assessment:

Name: Joe Smith

Position: Compliance Supervisor

Primary Motivation

Green Light

Skills and Capabilities

Green Light

Cognitive Abilities

Yellow Light

Street Smarts

Yellow Light

Affective Relational Makeup

Green Light

Conative Profile

Red Light

Managing Risk

Green Light


Green Light

Is Joe a good candidate for this job? The answer is no. Despite many great qualifications, the instinctive (and therefore unchangeable) way Joe would address the tasks, duties, and responsibilities of the position result in his constantly working against his natural energy.

Now the big question: How do you determine an individual’s ratings in these disciplines within the confines of an interviewing process? I have found a great technique that will provide you with worlds of information in a very short period of time. This technique is called SODAR.

SODAR is an acronym for






Ask your employment candidates to tell you a story after you frame the circumstances. For example, in the Compliance Supervisor, Joe Smith interview you might frame the story line this way:

“Joe, your background in compliance work is impressive. The impact of Oxley-Sarbanes on the firm today is forcing significant changes in the department. Have you ever been through a major change in your previous positions? Tell me the situation.

After hearing your first SODAR response, frame another situation and get a second SODAR.

After hearing the second SODAR, ask the following question. “All of us have been through circumstances that did not turn out well, or the way we had hoped. Can you share with me one problematic experience you had?” again, structuring the response as a SODAR.

The reason this approach works so well is that most people will have success stories. Telling you the success stories will highlight many of the eight criteria, both in what the candidates say and how they say it. The “failure” SODAR is the perhaps the most important one, revealing much about the character and learning factors of the individual.

Finally, I strongly believe that you must have a job description that details the tasks, duties, and responsibilities of the position. And I recommend that before making a final offer, you should ask the candidate to take a Kolbe A™ test, not as a condition of employment, but as a means for you, as a supervisor or manager, to make sure you understand how to play to an individual’s instinctive strengths and minimize the impact of elements of the position that might quickly wear them out.

Try these tactics, and watch how the success rate of your hiring process goes up.