Get out of the spotlight and let others shine.

It’s tempting to take the lead when you meet someone for the first time, run a meeting, or try to resolve a problem. Of course, you want to be interesting and show why you’re in charge, right?

It depends on who you want to be the Hero — you or those with you. If you want others to be the Hero, then you must become the Guide.

Guides don’t have to be out front, nor do they do all the talking. …

Hint: It’s not “Your Office”

One little comment can turn your perspective up-side down as a leader. A simple story from several years ago made that real for me.

Several years ago, a friend of mine was appointed by the School Board to become the interim superintendent. He quickly shifted from Assistant Superintendent for HR to take on all the responsibilities of the new role.

He took on all the duties, AND the prestige of being the top executive. The office, desk, position, monthly Board meetings, and state conference invitations were now “his.”

At the state conference he introduced himself…

It’s better to listen carefully than dig for fool’s gold.

“If you have to probe, probe, probe with an applicant, and you hire them, it will become prod, prod, prod.” - Tom Chambers, Principal, Greenville County Schools

This genuine gold nugget of interviewing wisdom came from a principal in one of our many interview workshops in Greenville County, SC.

It’s sooooo tempting to stop listening to what a candidate or team member is saying and start digging for the answer you want to hear.

Problem is, what you may find in your digging is fool’s gold. If you’re not listening…

Cues can help you filter out the fluff.

Some job candidates and co-workers are really good at answering questions that sound good. But when you ask about how they handle a situation or about their experience, is it real?

Listen for a few cues to empty or vague answers.

For example:

• You messages: “You could do this, you could do that…”

• Talking about the topic: “I think it’s important to…” — or — “That is something I really enjoy because…”

• Trust the experts: “Research says that…” — or — “I like how Einstein defined that problem…”


Want to extend your impact as a leader? Humbly listen and learn.

Leaders often invest time teaching their team because they know things. They know how and why and when to do things correctly to keep work on track. This is important, but it’s not the most important part.

That first leadership position is tempting to focus on the task. People often think they’re now the Head Do-er. Shift supervisors and managers may still have the task in mind, but that’s not their primary job.

Remember — the team is there to focus on the task. Leaders at all levels…

How many other thoughts, agendas, lists, triggers, and emotions do you have running through your mind when you interview? How does that head noise impact your quality of hire?

If you don’t use a defined process or system to hire, you risk letting your mind and emotions fly like a race car down a mountain road with no guard rails. How clear and focused are your hiring conversations?

Your best results start with a clear set of questions to screen and interview with criteria for what a good answer should sound like. …

Yes, I get it. We’re excited if an applicant for a posting applies for the job… and their skills are even remotely close to what we want. We’re thrilled if the person even responds to a text or email. We’re elated when we get a phone screen or in-person interview with the person. We’re absolutely giddy if they actually answers the phone or show up at the scheduled time.

All those hours and days of searching for a new employee at the frontline, specialty, or even leader level…resulting in being brushed off or ghosted. …

How often do you help people reach across their gaps?

In an era of “yell-tell-hope-it-sells,” people who actually listen, ask questions, and look for common ground are the glue that holds things together.

These people are often humble, curious, and actually care about others. They often are not in the spotlight and quietly lean into potential conflict with a desire to understand and invite the offended person to help fix the problem.

Bridge-builders are so rare these days, when you experience their gift they may come across as weird, but comforting somehow. …

Are you hearing what candidates are really saying?

When do you want to know something isn’t what it seems — before your after you commit?

My team interviews candidates for clients in the final stages of hiring, mostly leaders and specialty roles. Several recent projects revealed candidates leaning into their strengths and covering over their gaps. This is normal, and a strategy most people use to get a job.

That’s fine unless you are the hiring manager or the employee or customer this person will work will day-to-day.

What the client hears in the screening interviews is Rapport, Communication, Positive…

When there are more jobs than people, it’s time to pivot.

Everything has changed. Normally my team responds to requests from clients who want us to interview their top 3–5 finalists for leadership or specialty positions.

3–5 finalists? Maybe.

More often clients say they can’t find 3–5 viable applicants to even interview.

Their previous approach just hasn’t worked, and they desperately need help filling these positions. What can they do?

Off-the-shelf staffing and recruiting firms mainly look at resumes and surface data to send warm bodies or slightly relevant applicants. But clients don’t want to settle or waste precious time.

Paul Berggren

I help people listen and learn from each other. As President of Crown Global HR, I bring clarity to growing and hiring people.

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