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What data can tell us about managing people

The Predictive Index (PI) CEO talked with Vickers Engineering Process Improvement Manager Jordan Klint about where data comes into play when hiring and managing people. Take a listen or read the full transcript of the interview below.

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Mike: Great. I am Mike Zani, the CEO of The Predictive Index. I am excited to be here with Jordan Klint. We have a unique opportunity for the technical people and the engineers in the audience. Jordan is a recovering engineer turned HR specialist and has a fantastic gift for bringing data and information into a process which has often been very subjective. He works for Vickers Engineering, which is founded in 1970. Vickers, like many founder-run, started, driven organizations became unbelievably popular in an area that was not designed to support their specialty. So, they’re high end, precision machining, in the city of New Troy, Michigan which has wonderful, beautiful vacation homes is not really designed to support the creation of a lot of high end, super precision machiners, fabricators, and automation experts. So, Jordan. Welcome, and I’d love to ask you, how did you first discover HR and then how did you go about finding data in this sort of subjective space?

Jordan: Yeah, thanks for having me. Everybody knows HR, it’s been there. You know it. But I really found … I started doing a lot of hiring. I was engineering manager, I was doing all this technical hiring and there’s stuff as an engineer that you just kind of miss sometimes and you’re not really picking up on it. That’s where Predictive Index came in. We stumbled across it I guess. It really lit a fire in me. I could have something to relate to, I could pick out all of those details that I might otherwise miss. You can read what’s on a resume, you can get all that information, but there’s a whole other level to that candidate obviously. You miss a few and they get real expensive to miss, but I wanted to start hitting more. So that’s really where I found-

Mike: How many people do you think you’ve hired in your career?

Jordan: Probably maybe 25, 30, something like that.

Mike: Fantastic. They’re all on the technical side of things?

Jordan: Yeah, everybody’s pretty technical. I mean there’s some more entry level stuff, but there’s more technical, on the technical side.

Mike: Great. Who was the first person to assess you?

Jordan: Assess me in The Predictive Index or …?

Mike: In The Predictive Index.

Jordan: I think I had an interview way, way back where they were using every little system that they could so they had them all. I went through it then, so I was a little familiar with it from them, but really when we came here and I came in, this was the first place that I actually used it and I knew what it was. So definitely here, I think that was in 2013, something like that? 2014.

Mike: Now, do you train some of your key managers to use things you can learn from The Predictive Index and other tools on how to manage their people?

Jordan: Yeah. So, that’s one of my…again, because I really hit it with the data, so I’m kind of a go to on a lot of those technical things. Like, I don’t do a lot of the hiring anymore, I’m just more of that resource to make sure that people are getting the information and are comfortable with what they’re seeing.

Mike: So you wear the learning and development hat in the organization?

Jordan: Yeah.

Mike: And you’ve been to one two day training?

Jordan: Two or three maybe, even. I don’t exactly remember. And then a couple in Carmel down there, the refreshers.

Mike: Oh great, so you’ve gone back in and gotten some refreshers. Super. So what’s your behavioral pattern? Do you know your pattern?

Jordan: Yeah. So, I’m highest A, and C, no B at all.

Mike: Oh really? And low D, too.

Jordan: Like right in the mid, like right on.

Mike: Awesome. Do you know that is pretty close to Steve Job’s pattern?

Jordan: Well, obviously.

Mike: Yeah, so, it’s a variate of what we call individualist.

Jordan: Yeah.

Mike: So does that really relate with you, when you get a readback?

Jordan: As soon as I saw that stuff, I knew it was going to be a great tool because it really nails me right on the head. So I was really proud of the analysis there, and I bought in because it’s right. I knew it was right, I know me and I know what I am.

Mike: Okay well, great. The Individualist, I bring it up with Steve Jobs … you sort of have your own true north. The funny thing that we like to say about individualist, if you have to do it really quick it’s like “I’m going to do it my way, I’m not going to tell you about it, I’m going to do it in my own timeframe, and I don’t really care what you think”. I must say, Jordan, for those of you who are listening on audio only, Jordan has a world class individualist beard that is … it is awesome. So thank you. So, I wanted to ask you, when we first got to meet each other, you brought up a situation with, I think you called it your head designer?

Jordan: Yeah, our lead designer, yep.

Mike: Yeah, your lead designer. Tell us about that position and tell us about how you stumbled across this guy.

Jordan: So, we had worked at a large corporation before, me and him year back. Not directly working together so I knew of him and it’s a relatively small area so you kind of know the people that are around pretty locally. But he didn’t have the experience we were looking for. We were looking to fill a floor engineer, kind of lead engineer on the floor type position. Didn’t really have that skill set, but I knew he was sharp and we came from the same school, so go Kettering. So I knew he had all that going for him at least. And I’m like we really have to get him in, I think he has the right skill set, he can learn and he can adapt. He had been doing a lot of FEA work before, that’s what he had been in. Which, we don’t do any of, so it was a total skill set that we didn’t need or have any use for his career path up until that point.

Jordan: I knew there was something in him and I’m like, if we can get him in, we can get him to fit. So that’s really where that whole, kind of our style of, let’s find the right people and get them in here and then let’s make the work match around them, because we’ve got enough work, there’s plenty to do out there, where we can find the stuff that that person can do excellently and we can just leave him to his section.

Mike: So you found great raw material in this guy, you modified the position to fit him?

Jordan: I had to. To go sell it, I had to tweak it and say “Well, here’s the things I know he can do within the first six months and then we can grow some of this other stuff”. And it turned out he ended up not being a floor engineer because he had such good computer skills essentially that he really migrated over to design. Now he leads all of our design and all of our automation. So it’s pretty awesome.

Mike: That’s great. As he’s progressed or moved into new roles, have you continued to modify to make sure that someone doesn’t make him go do something that is not a preference?

Jordan: We want to do a little things out of preference every once in a while, you know? So there’s a little bit of that there. But yeah, we try to keep it on what he can really hit, what he can really nail with some stretching opportunities obviously.

Mike: Okay, so you articulated that you guys are growing, business is booming and you know, you’ve got sort of an intensity finding people. Because of this, “hey we’re a little bit off the beaten path in a place that’s more prone to develop vacation homes”, how do you go about finding these individuals when the skill sets aren’t there? How do you find the diamonds in the rough?

Jordan: I mean, you kind of have to bring them in and you have to really feel it out. One of the big things we look for is what really makes them tick. What are the things they look for in their day to day? What a thing that makes them excited? What do they do outside of work? I don’t need to know their … lots of people want to give you their work schedule and here’s the things I do every morning and the things I do in the afternoon, and that stuff isn’t as helpful. I need to know what you actually want to do, not what you’ve always done. Sometimes other places don’t have you in the right role, and that’s probably why you’re looking. So, if I can pick up, hey, I think that this person is actually looking for something where they can work with their hands more even though that’s not their necessarily what they’re going to say, but if I can pick out something like that, I know I can find a little bit of an edge there, where I think I can make this work. Then again, optimism, we want the optimist. That’s really what we’re looking for. We do things that are out of the box and you know, you’ve got to be pretty creative and you’ve got to kind of play on your feet.

Mike: Yeah, tell me about that. You mentioned also when we first met, you mentioned that optimism or lack thereof is a deal breaker for you or for your organization. How do you go about thinking about that?

Jordan: So, I want people to internalize a lot of their own short comings. So that’s one of the things that we look for is, can you identify that this situation went bad in the past, you know, whatever your worst example is or something that you failed at, and are you capable of saying some of that is actually your burden to bear? I think that’s one of the keys. If you can look at that, you can really start to see … I think it’s growth mindset or something like that that they talk about sometimes.

Mike: Or self-awareness, also.

Jordan: All of that stuff, and then you can tell pretty quick when somebody’s got a negative viewpoint on almost everything. It comes out. You can’t hide it.

Mike: Do you have a couple of favorite questions you like to ask to sort of poke around self-awareness?

Jordan: Oh, yeah, yeah. I like the, “What would your mother say about you?” I kind of like that one because it throws people off a little bit and you can maybe get them to open up and say something. But the one I really use to pick up if they can identify in themselves, I ask how would you rate yourself overall, on a scale of 1-10 right now, so home life, job life, you know, hobbies, all lumped into one, how would you rate yourself right now? And almost everybody says seven or eight, you get some nines. I had a ten even, one time, but that’s a different case I guess. But once you can get them to say that, I’m not even interested in the answer. Now I want to come back and say in a year from now, if you came back to me, what would it take, what would you have to change, what would change in your life to be one step better? So if you said a seven, what would it take to be an eight? And if they can come back from something, you hear a lot “If I could get paid more, if I get a boss that respects my ideas”, you’re like, that’s not what’s really holding you back in your life. You have to come up with something.

Jordan: So I think you can get into what their world view is and what makes them tick a little bit with something like that. I’m sure there’s tons of variations.

Mike: So you’re sort of not letting them externalize or put it on someone else. You’re trying to get it to internalize that response?

Jordan: No, I’ll let them say whatever. So if they want to put it all on somebody else, I just know that that’s not somebody that’s ready to take that responsibility. So, probably something … if you don’t have the perfect skill set and you’re not willing to internalize some of your shortcomings, it’s not going to really work. We don’t want to try to force a square peg in a round hole.

Mike: That’s great. I love it. Do you have other questions you love to ask?

Jordan: I mean, that’s really the good one, and I can usually pick it up because I’m looking for very specific things. Again, I’m not looking at just resume, that’s kind of just the get in the door. I don’t go over a lot of that. Your individual skills that you have related to that, for the most part I’m going to trust what you say is on there and we do a little bit of … we walk them through the floor and show them what we’ve got. And if they can come up speed on some of that. But I’m really trying to identify through these more or open conversation type thing, if they’re going to … I’m a landlord too, that’s one of my other side jobs, you know, so that’s one of the things I picked up there. If they’re going to bad mouth their former landlord, it’s possible they had the worst landlord ever but I don’t want to hear that in a tenant screening and things like that. So that’s one of the things I just use … and it slips out. You can get people to slip up too if you just push them a little bit. They can keep a guard right here, but it’s kind of wishy washy and you can break that.

Mike: So let’s hope this podcast doesn’t get to your entire candidate base.

Jordan: They can, that’s fine. You can go for it.

Mike: I’m going to co-op your question, try it a couple times. I use something similar. I usually ask someone for … I set it up by saying, listen, if you don’t give me real responses to this, you’re really not going to get the job. And as the CEO, that carries some weight. They believe me on that score. I said listen, I want three things that you wish you did better. And when you get to the third one, you see them take … the first one’s easy because they prepped it, maybe the second one, but the third one you usually get a real one.

Jordan: I just read Ricardo Semler’s book, and that was one of the things that he always pushed in there was yes, these why questions. Why would this fail, why did it fail, every ody has the first reason why something failed. They have it prepared. But they don’t have that next step or the next step beyond that and then you could really get into some honest opinions like, “I just wasn’t prepared for this” or whatever.

Mike: Or some really self-aware people do have the next why’s and then they blow you away. Like, wow, you’ve thought about it. That’s great. Okay, I did want to ask. So you have a really ironic story with respect to The Predictive Index that I thought was quite entertaining. Tell us about that.

Jordan: Which part?

Mike: This is the one where your first time that you applied to Vickers.

Jordan: Yeah, yeah. Okay. Yep.

Jordan: So, it was the middle of the recession, I was at a plant, it was a manufacturing plant. They were moving down south and I wasn’t going to make the move. So I had about a 9 month runway where I knew my tenure here is coming to an end. So I started getting out there and started really pressing the field. This was 2010 I think. So we didn’t even know, especially manufacturing you don’t know if it’s coming back at that point. Because I was a little nervous and starting to get prepped for all that. Vickers is real close to my house. It’s a substantial … would shorten my commute and everything. So I’m like, this is really good. There was a position in supply chain management and inventory control or something like this. Not what my skillset was but I knew I could do it. I was the backup for the person at our plant and things like that.

Jordan: I applied and was real confident this was going to be a great fit because I was close and I could do it. I get in there and I have a phone interview. First phone call talking with the HR manager I think, and she’s on there and she asks me one question. And I get through the end of it and she says “Okay, you’re not going to be a fit” and then hangs up right on me right there. I’m just like, oh man this is-

Mike: It hurts.

Jordan: Yeah, it did. Because you’re prepared. You think you’re going to nail it. She was looking for someone who’s primary role was inventory control. That was the primary role. When it came out that it wasn’t my primary role, that I was an engineer before, it was the end. But I was the backup. When that guy was on vacation or whatever, that’s what I was doing. So I was very familiar with the things. So I was kind of bummed by that and whatever.

Jordan: I went out and I landed a way better paying job even, and I’d been there about a year and then a head hunter calls up and says “Hey, I’ve got this Vickers engineering, you know. You want to come down and be the manufacturing guy down there?” And I’m like, well, I’ve kind of been down this road before so whatever, I guess. I wasn’t looking at all so, I come down and sure enough they’re desperate for my exact role or whatever I was, and so I end up … I do well and I get the job. I come in and I knew exactly … I’m like, okay, if they’re going to miss … because a year before you could have had me for half price basically and no head hunter. Because I was already here, I was in the door. So, I how do I find a way where I don’t let the next me slip away. So, that was one of the things that really just … it sticks with me. I’m passionate about it even eight years later or whatever. Because I just know that people are out there. You can get them in, you just have to see what they’re going to be capable of.

Jordan: So, somebody in the company knew that within a year you were going to need a manufacturing or engineering manager. You’re going to need that, “Hey we can cast a wide enough net. He can do inventory control for a year, then we can move him over.” You have to be ready for that kind of stuff.

Mike: That is fantastic. Did you tell anyone senior of you that they’re paying-

Jordan: They know. I stick it to them every once and a while. You can kind of rub it in a little bit.

Mike: Well, I hope the person they hired for that other role, the inventory control manager is still there and a happy member of the team.

Jordan: He’s also not here, no.

Mike: Oh, so they also got that wrong?

Jordan: Well, maybe wrong isn’t the-

Mike: We won’t tell anyone. Just between you and I.

Jordan: Yeah. Yeah.

Mike: Yeah.

Jordan: Those are just between me and you.

Mike: Yeah. Well, Jordan, we are so lucky to have had these few minutes with you to learn your expertise. Might I say, as someone who is very low B, you definitely cranked it up for this, I appreciate it, and thank you for putting yourself out there.

Jordan: I’m all sweaty and everything. So you know I’m real low B.

Mike: Hey, my business partner is lowest B and he calls it B-pleted. You can … after this hangs up you can curl into a ball and recharge.

Jordan: Yeah.

Mike: That’s great.

Jordan: Thanks for having me, though.

Mike: No, thank you so much. It’s been wonderful. Great conversation and glad you’re a happy PI user.

Jordan: Awesome.

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