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Adopting a “Subcontractor” Approach to Managing

Paula Long

Paula Long is the CEO of DataGravity, a data management firm based out of New Hampshire that emphasizes mutual accountability. In a recent interview with Adam Bryant of the New York Times, Long spoke about her unique management techniques, the importance of mutual accountability, and her interesting approach to interviewing. Here are some highlights from the interview:

  • After you become a manager, nobody really works for you. In fact, you really work for them.
  • It’s your job to help people be successful; it’s not your job to make them successful.
  • It’s important to assert what you’re good at and why it matters.
  • Work out when it’s OK to micromanage, and when it’s not.
  • Consider a “subcontractor” approach to managing. By creating individual, contract-like, relationships between staff and managers, each party approaches the contract agreeing to put in equal amounts of effort in good faith.
  • When it comes to interviewing, consider asking “stupid questions” to see how a candidate answers. Try making false statements to see if a candidate corrects you, or pick a fight to see how they react to conflict.
  • When advising college graduates, Long emphasizes that it’s OK not to know what you want to do. Don’t cut off the ability to explore. Remember, it’s harder to explore as you get older as you have different commitments.

Click here to view the interview in full.

“Is it the cards, or how you play them?”

Singh

Narinder Singh is the president of “Topcoder,” a company that administers computer-programming competitions. In a recent interview with Adam Bryant of the New York Times, Singh spoke about his early management experiences, leadership lessons, and hiring processes.

Here are some points we took away from the interview:

  • Don’t underestimate the power of stereotypes: Try to understand when you could use stereotypes and when it’s important to break and challenge them. “I started looking hard at the assumptions I was making about people, and what assumptions they were making about me.”
  • Ask “Was it the hand, or how you played it?”: If you stumble because of the cards you’re dealt, “you should get better cards… But if you played them badly, you need to think about how to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”
  • Admire leaders that aren’t afraid to be challenged: People have to feel that the best idea wins. “If I have somebody working for me who’s really good, I should lose 80% of the arguments I have with them because they should know their area better than I do.”
  • Ask how a candidate travels: “Are you a get-there-early-for-the-flight person, or a barely-make-it-in-time person?” Then find out WHY! You want to understand how a candidate looks at the world.
  • Everyone has a unique perspective: “When you meet somebody, pull every piece of insight you can out of them.” You never know what you’ll learn!

Click here to view the full article in The New York Times.

“On a scale of 1 to 10, how lucky are YOU?”

Are Traasdahl, the chief executive of the advertising firm "Tapad."

Are Traasdahl, the chief executive of the advertising firm “Tapad.”

When it comes to conducting job interviews, we’re all familiar with the typical questioning dialogue. A recent article in the New York Times, however, alerted me to a very creative approach to questioning prospective employees. Are Traasdahl, Chief Executive of the advertising firm Tapad, likes to ask how lucky a candidate feels they’ve been in life on a scale from one to ten.

Traasdahl argues that: “[s]even is the right answer. If you say 10, you’ve just been the golden child. Everything in your life has just been fabulous, and everything breaks in your direction. You are not able to read the situation around you at that point, I think. If the answer is 2, then you are in a misunderstood-genius category.” Click here to view the article in full.

What creative interview questions do you ask your prospective employees?