Saturday, October 25, 2014

Top 5 Interview Questions for Managers

1. How did you spend the first 90 days of your previous job?The best employees are those who bring real energy and initiative to the job. I like to know whether you’re the kind of person who can set priorities, take initiative, and drive results right from the beginning.

This is why I like to ask how you approached your last job. I’m looking for specific examples of how you got to understand the organization and integrate with the team. I want to hear about your early wins, accomplishments and successes. Learning about how you tackled the early days of your last job gives me a good indication of how you will hit the ground running if you were to join my team.

2. What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced and how did you handle it?The actual challenge and solution aren’t so important. I’m more interested in how you worked through the problem. Candidates need to demonstrate strategic thinking and strong problem solving skills. And, just as importantly, they need to know when and how to ask for help.

Did you engage your teammates in implementing a solution? Did you work with your customer to make sure everyone was on board? Did you keep your leadership informed early so there were no surprises? These answers tell me how you deal with issues, address problems and manage stakeholders.

3. How would the people you’ve worked with describe you?What would your boss, colleagues, and customers say if I asked them what it’s like to work with you? Are you a team player or a lone operator? Are you a big picture person or do you focus on the details? Do you have high standards of integrity or do you bend the rules to get things done faster?

I’m looking for answers that demonstrate the leadership qualities and personal values that we seek in our top performers.
  • We look for leaders who can shape the future by establishing goals and laying out a plan to achieve them;
  • We also want our people to build effective relationships, whether they’re with colleagues, employees, or customers;
  • We want leaders who can energize the team, engaging and inspiring others to do their best work;
  • We need people that deliver results, understand our strategy and meet their commitments;
  • And most importantly, we want people who model personal excellence, integrity and accountability in all that they do.
These qualities are especially important at Lockheed Martin, though they should serve you well in almost any role. No matter what field you’re in, it always pays to have a full spectrum leader on the team.

4. What is one area you’d like to improve and what are you doing about it?Of course, no one is perfect – and I would never hire someone who thinks that they are. Yet a great employee goes beyond simply being aware of their shortcomings, they are actively working on them. Are you working with a coach or mentor? Have you taken a public speaking class? Do you engage in 360-degree feedback sessions? We all have things we’d like to work on, and I want to see that you have the drive to better yourself, grow professionally, and continue to learn.

5. Why should I hire you? I like to end an interview with this simple question. The best candidates make a strong case for themselves. They can clearly articulate why they are the best choice for the job – and they can tell me what unique qualities they bring that no one else can offer. I want to see confidence in one’s capabilities with awareness of one’s opportunities for growth. This is no time to be shy; it’s the time to be your own best advocate.

Top Questions to asked Hiring Manager during the interview as a candidate

What skills and experiences would make an ideal candidate? This is a great open-ended question that will have the interviewer put his or her cards on the table and state exactly what the employer is looking for. If the interviewer mentions something you didn’t cover yet, now is your chance.

What is the single largest problem facing your staff and would I be in a position to help you solve this problem? This question not only shows that you are immediately thinking about how you can help the team, it also encourages the interviewer to envision you working at the position.

What have you enjoyed most about working here? This question allows the interviewer to connect with you on a more personal level, sharing his or her feelings. The answer will also give you unique insight into how satisfied people are with their jobs there. If the interviewer is pained to come up with an answer to your question, it’s a big red flag.

What constitutes success at this position and this firm or nonprofit? This question shows your interest in being successful there, and the answer will show you both how to get ahead and whether it is a good fit for you.

Do you have any hesitations about my qualifications? I love this question because it’s gutsy. Also, you’ll show that you’re confident in your skills and abilities.

Can you tell me about the team I’ll be working with? Notice how the question is phrased; it assumes you will get the job. This question also tells you about the people you will interact with on a daily basis, so listen to the answer closely.

While waiting to find out if I am successful or not, can you recommend any further reading material or resources I can take away with me to learn more about the role and the organization?

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Lessons For New Managers

Take your management position seriously:
Whether you're supervising a staff of four or four-hundred, you are personally responsible for setting each member of your staff up for success. When they are frustrated with their work environment, it makes a world of difference for them to feel heard. Take the time to listen and find ways to show the you're genuinely invested in their success.

Put your employees first:
Great leaders sacrifice their own comfort for the good of those in their care. Keep the best interests of your employees in mind at all times and you'll have a dedicated staff to support you in your time of need. Building this trust helps make those hard asks a little easier when the time comes.

Hire slowly, fire quickly:
Listen to your instincts, and take your time making hiring decisions. There is a lot of time, money and effort invested in the hiring process. The decision is an important one that shouldn't be taken lightly.

On the other hand, fire quickly. If an employee commits a fireable act, there’s a high likelihood it won’t be the last. If it’s a bad fit, there’s bad performance, or your staff or reputation are on the line, pull the bandage off quickly.

Hire people smarter than you:
Many managers were first lower-level staff that were subject matter experts in their area of focus. The longer you sit in a management role, the more you drift toward a generalist or "jack of all trades." To set yourself up for success, only hire people who are smarter than you in the area(s) for which they are hired. Bring them on, watch them shine, and allow them to teach you more about their area of expertise. They will not only make you look good to upper management, but will also teach you technical skills that make you a more valuable asset to the company.

Learn to evaluate tough choices:
When faced with a tough decision, weigh your options realistically, then diplomatically. Never hesitate to seek the advice and support of trusted mentors and peers. Don't be afraid to give bad news, but give it early and openly. Know that you will make a few bad decisions, but it's not the end of the world. Do your research, look at the problem from all angles, make a decision and act with conviction.

Don’t sweat the little things:
Life likes to throw curveballs. Just when you think you have things figured out, something will change that has you reeling. In this scenario, freaking out is never productive. If it seems like the sky is falling, take a step back, take inventory of the things you still have (family, friends, health, security) and realize that this challenge is just a speed bump.

Once you realize that the worst case scenario isn't so bad, you can look at the problem from a new perspective and begin your plan of attack. Size it up, make adjustments, and knock that thing out of the park.

Think outside the box:
I hate this cliché as much as the next person, but what I hate even more is hearing, "But we've always done it this way!" Without change, there can be no progress. Comfort leads to routine, routine leads to complacency, and complacency leads to mistakes. Schedule time (quarterly, bi-annually, annually) to review your processes and see if there are opportunities for innovation.

Remember, just because people do things a certain way now doesn’t mean it’s the best way. There is no guarantee that changing the process will have positive results, but if you never test it out, you'll never know. If you feel that you can do it better, don't be afraid to rewrite the rules!

Set clear goals:This applies to life in and out of the office. Clear, measurable goals help you stay motivated, focused and moving in your intended direction. You can have large goals (e.g.- I want to run a hospital.) but if you don't break them down into smaller goals (e.g.- Go to graduate school. Secure management position. Earn professional certification. Build professional network.) then it is easy to lose sight of the big picture.

Put your goals in writing and store them somewhere where you can review them often. Find ways to track your progress to stoke the motivational fire. Most importantly, when you achieve your goals, take time to celebrate!

The desire to shoulder the burden of your entire team is admirable, but ultimately futile. You may succeed for a while, but eventually you will destroy yourself or your team. If you've hired correctly (see above), then there are people on your team who are better than you at the task anyways.

Delegate responsibility to your SMEs and empower them to own the task themselves. If they need support, let them know that your door is always open. If you've done your job correctly, they will crush it and you will both get rave reviews from those up the management chain.

Encourage 360-degree feedback:In order to foster personal growth for yourself and professional growth for your staff, you should employ a system of 360-degree feedback. In this system, you should regularly provide your employees with feedback regarding their performance and they should have the ability to candidly discuss your ability to lead and mentor them.

The success of such a program relies on the ability of you and your staff to maintain open lines of communication and be open to constructive feedback that can sometimes be hard to swallow. It may be a hard slog at first, but if you stick with it you will be paid dividends down the road.

Make time for life:
If you're in that situation, it is a failure on your part and that of your supervisor. Expectations need to be realistic and if they're not, they need to be revisited in a one-on-one conversation. Maybe your supervisor isn't aware that you're overburdened and having this discussion can help him redistribute workloads. Maybe he's unwilling to budge, in which case you should probably start looking for another job.

Listen, all-nighters and 80-hour weeks are okay (and even necessary) in short sprints, but if you're living that lifestyle month after month and you're unhappy, do something about it. Life is too short to spend slaving away to make someone else's dream come true.

Always make a concerted effort to balance your work obligations with your loved ones, hobbies, goals and aspirations. Don't worry, the work will still be there when you get back.

Don’t bring work stress into your personal relationship:
This ties into the point above. There are times when stress in the workplace is unavoidable. Before you leave the office, take a deep breath and exhale. Life will go on. Leave your baggage at the door and head home.

Having strong personal relationships with friends, family and significant others can help relieve stress, settle nerves, and recharge your proverbial battery. This is achieved through open conversations, not by projecting your frustrations onto those you love. Do your best not to drop your work stress on the people closest to you and make sure to apologize on the rare occasions that you do.

Stay healthy:
Stress is inevitable. It also has dramatic effect on well-being, some that manifest as physical changes and others that are imperceptible. It is extremely important that you take good care of yourself in order to shoulder the demands of being a manager.

If this means taking a day or two off as "mental health days", take them. Eat well, drink water, get plenty of sleep and exercise regularly. Each of these points has been discussed extensively elsewhere, but their importance cannot be overstated. You are the leader of this team and it is important that you do everything in your power to always be at the top of your game.

Be grateful:
This is a thread that is common to many of the points above. Life is hard. Managing people is hard. There are a lot of demands placed on you and a lot of people who will make it seem like your decisions make the difference between success and failure, between living and dying. The truth is, in many cases, they don't. The business will not fail, you will not lose your job, life will go on.

Life is ever-changing. Be grateful for having a job. Be grateful for having people who will love and support you no matter what. Be grateful for the opportunity to share this world we live in with beautiful landscapes, structures and creatures that will live on long after you've become nothing more than bone dust.

If you're absolutely killing it, enjoy it and work hard. If you're unhappy, know that it will get better and keep plugging away. Throughout the entire process, know that your value comes from within yourself and that, at the end of the day, you are truly blessed.

Acceptance in Accountability

Accountability is often thought of as being responsible for something, but that’s what responsibility means! The truth is that you can be responsible for something and not be accountable for it.

Accountability is Acceptance, but what does Acceptance have to do with Accountability?

You may have heard the saying ‘what you resist, persists’?

What this means is that when you are unaware of (or in denial about!) how things really are, then they simply remain the same, because you have no reason to change them.

So acceptance is about getting real about how things really are, and I mean REALLY.

It’s about Accepting the Reality and this can be challenging.

Most of us are fully aware of the power of positive thinking. We know that to focus on the negative is not conducive to achieving positive outcomes and so we are all constantly striving to be positive, to look on the bright side and to seek the best in every situation.

Now, I'm not suggesting that this isn’t a good idea and I certainly wouldn’t advocate the opposite!

Clearly aspiring to be positive is a far more preferable default state than thinking negatively and focusing on problems. However, the problem with never looking at the problems is that you spend your time in denial and when you are in denial, you can’t improve things. And this is where Acceptance comes into it’s own.

The first step is Awareness. This means noticing patterns of behaviour that are unhelpful, weaknesses in terms of beliefs, skills and experience and being aware of what’s not working in your business.

The second step is Acknowledgement. This means actually recognising those things. And this is different to simply having awareness of them. You can have awareness and still choose to be in denial.

Only when you have both awareness AND acknowledgement can you get to the third step – Acceptance and this is where the internal accountability is because once you get to acceptance, there is no other decision to make, other than to change things! You now have a reason to do it!

Get Real!

So, be honest with yourself about what’s really going on. If it’s not going great, acknowledge that it isn’t going great and then accept it for what it is. Only when you do this can you really begin to address it.

Ask yourself: “What is really going on?”
  • Is my marketing really working?
  • Is my idea really working?
  • Are my clients really happy?
  • Am I really on top of everything?
  • Do I really follow through?
  • Am I really making progress month on month?
And be honest with yourself with your answers. Getting to acceptance is essential if you are going to create the business you really want.

5 Questions Managers Should Never Asked

Questions can be great for engaging and motivating people , but they can just as easily be used to confront or blame, and can shift the mood from positive to negative. “We live in the world our questions create,” says David Cooperrider, a professor at Case Western Reserve University and a pioneer of “Appreciative Inquiry,” which holds that questions focusing on strengths and using positive language are far more useful to organizations than questions with a negative focus.

What are some specific questions to avoid?

“What’s the problem?” Company leaders may often find themselves asking this question or some variation of it. “What’s the problem, what’s going wrong, what is broken, what is our biggest threat — that is, unfortunately, the starting point of 80 percent of meetings in management,” Cooperrider says. But he maintains that if a company leader asks questions that are focused on problems and weaknesses, then the organization overall will tend to be fixated on that — rather than focusing on strengths and opportunities. Instead of inquiring about what’s gone wrong or focusing on “the problem,” it’s better to use positive questions geared to leveraging strengths and achieving goals:What are we doing well and how might we build upon that? What is the ideal outcome and how do we get closer to that?

“Whose fault is it?” This question focuses attention on finding a scapegoat when in reality, there is usually plenty of blame to go around for any failure or problem. Keith Yamashita of the SY Partners consultancy says that when leaders ask about fault, they’re often trying to shift blame away from themselves. A better approach would be to ask, How can we work together to shore up any weaknesses? That identifies weak links and areas in need of improvement without focusing too much on blame.

“Why don’t you do it this way?” This question may seem like a mere suggestion, but when asked by a leader, it’s truly a leading question — a way of imposing your ways on others. (Even worse: When this question is asked after the fact, as in Why didn’t you do it this way? Now it’s also second-guessing.) The leadership expert Mary Jo Asmus with Aspire Collaborative Services says, “Asking leading questions such as How about if you do it this way? is just a stealth form of control.” She maintains that if a leader has hired well, he/she “shouldn’t have to control how the work gets done.” Better to allow people to figure out their own ideas and approaches, though you can sometimes help them along by asking, How were you thinking of doing it? What do you have in mind?

“Haven’t we tried this already?” Another, equally bad way of asking this is, Why do you think this would work when it hasn’t worked before? It’s not that a leader shouldn’t raise questions about proposed strategies — especially if something similar has been tried previously — but the tone is important. Phil Kessler of Vistage International, a leadership group for chief executives, points out that this version of the question comes off as condescending and even defeatist. It seems to suggest that everything has been thought of already, and that because something was tried once and didn’t work, it should never be considered again. This fails to recognize that some ideas may have come up short in the past because of bad timing or poor execution, not because the idea itself was wrong. Better to ask, If we tried this now, what would be different this time — and how might that change the results?

“What’s our iPad?” The consultant Dev Patnaik of Jump Associates notes that some version of this question tends to be asked when a panicked boss reacts to a competitor introducing a hot new product. The leader turns to his or her staff and asks, in effect, Why haven’t you come up with something like that? Get cracking! The problem is, this question is leading people to be followers—to think that their job is to imitate what the other guy is doing, as quickly as possible. Rather than put it in those imitative terms, it’s better to ask questions like: Why is our competitor having success with this product? What need is it satisfying? How might we use our particular strengths to do an even better job of meeting customers’ needs?

Looking beyond this list of specific questions, there are other tests you can use to assess whether the question on the tip of your tongue is a good one. In general, a leader should avoid questions “asked in a spirit of advocacy instead of inquiry,” says Tim Ogilvie of the management consultancy Peer Insight. Steer clear of questions “that come across like a parent talking to a child,” says Vistage’s Kessler. And lastly, Dan Rockwell of the blog Leadership Freak adds, “Never ask a question if you don’t want an answer.”