Opportunity, Collaboration & Discovery

A Leader Reveals Key Job Candidate Questions

CJ Westerberg, August 3, 2010 10:32 AM

" . . .As a leader,
he had to have a clear vision,
and had to be able to communicate that vision,
and had to get individuals to execute on that vision. . . "

Leadership Under Adversity:  How The Vision Thing Matters

Intelligent leadership advice from journalist Adam Bryant's interview with Quintin E. Primo III, co-founder and chief executive of Capri Capital Partners, a real estate investment and development firm based in Chicago. Excerpts from the "Corner Office" feature in The NY Times, "Get a Diploma, but Then Get a Passport":

"Q. What were the most important leadership lessons for you?
A. Leadership, in my opinion, is best learned, or honed, through adversity. And it's in times of adversity that one must step up to the plate and do something. You have to do this, or do that, but you just can't stand still. You have to take action in adversity.

And for me, probably the most poignant moment in my career as a leader was when my first business failed miserably. . . . So we entered into a death spiral, roughly two years after I started the firm in '88. And managing down, as the Titanic is sinking, you're not even worried about the deck chairs.

 . . .It taught me a lot about who I was. It taught me a great deal about the folks I had selected to work with me on this sinking ship.

It was a very frightening period for me, but what I've learned is that one must have faith, faith in something larger than yourself, or you truly will be sunk. Whether that faith is faith in the common good of man, whether it's in universal rhythm or karma, or whether it be simply in God, there has to be something larger than you."

 " . . .In abundance, it's very easy to lose focus.
But in adversity, one must have extreme focus.
. . "

"Q. How else did that experience change you as an entrepreneur?
A. It's very interesting. Because I experienced such great adversity in that first business and lived to tell about it, my willingness and ability to take risk increased significantly. So instead of becoming risk-averse, it made me almost embrace risk".

At this point, Primo talks about "how he hires," by connecting the company's mission tenets of "significant diversity" with its self-perception of hiring "extraordinarily nice people" and "highly competent people" who "collectively accomplish significant things."  Capri rarely hires people that are unknown to anyone within the organization because they care about particular attributes that may not show up on a resume.

"Q. And what questions do you ask?
A. I want to know about what an individual has done well, what they have not done well. I want to hear about where they've failed, and what they learned from it. I want to know about their families. I want to know as much as I possibly can about an individual before they join the company."

"Q. And if you only had a few questions to ask a job candidate?
A. The first question I would ask is: "Tell me your perception of this firm, and I want to hear as many bad things as I hear good things. I want your objective assessment of this firm" No. 2 , "I want an objective assessment of yourself." Three, I would ask, "Not in five years, but in 10 years, what do you want to be doing?"

I also want to know exactly what you do well, and what you don"t do well, because in the trenches, at my shop, honesty is cherished. We're very honest with each other. Being adept at self-assessment tells me that you will also be adept at assessing a situation that you may have created -- an investment that you may have made -- that is going sour.

"Being adept at self-assessment tells me that you will also be adept at assessing a situation that you may have created  . . ."

"Q. Who were big influences on your leadership style?
A.  . . .Being raised in such a spiritual household allowed me to incorporate, by osmosis, a lot of values. . . . When you think about it, to be a pastor, to be a pastoral leader of a church or synagogue or mosque, you have to have a very clear vision. You have to be able to sell something to your constituents that they cannot see, since there's no hard evidence of this vision.

As a leader, he had to have a clear vision, and had to be able to communicate that vision, and had to get individuals to execute on that vision. Secondly, he had financial responsibilities. He had to raise enough money on an annual basis to run the shop. Third, he had operational responsibilities. He had to run the place, literally, and oftentimes with no safety net. . . .

I can't even imagine the types of interpersonal and organizational issues he had to deal with. But one of his favorite phrases was, "Disagreement, but with respect." And my father never raised his voice. He was a tremendous role model. . . "

We found this particular profile worthy of two parts: Part One is about leadership with link HERE to The Daily Riff's   "College Grads: Diploma First. Passport Next".

Link to full article in The New York Times with link HERE.

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It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.
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