The EQ interview finding employees high emotional intelligence part 13

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Q: Describe a time when others relied on you and followed your lead. Q: Tell me about a time when you were able to influence others. • How did you do it? • How did you feel about influencing others? Q: Describe a time when you took charge of a situation. Q: Tell me about a time when others looked to you for direction. • What did you do? • How did you feel about that? For managers and leaders: Q: How do you get people to follow you? • What do you do? • How do you influence them? Q: Tell me about a time when someone was resisting you. • What did you do? Q: Describe a time when you were able to get people to follow you on a controversial issue. Q: Tell me about a time when you united your followers around an issue. Q: Describe a time when you influenced people to follow you when you did not have positional authority. Q: Give me an example of when you influenced your peers. Q: Give me an example of when you influenced your boss. KEY POINTS TO CONSIDER WHEN ASSESSING ANSWERS The candidate should be able to provide examples of times when she emerged as a leader. Look for examples when the candidate deliberately demonstrated leadership and also for examples of when the candidate emerged as a leader because others sought out her knowledge, 114 THE EQ INTERVIEW skill, or interest in a particular task or subject. When a candidate deliberately demonstrates leadership, she chooses to lead. All three of the examples provided above demonstrate deliberate leadership. However, depending on the role and the job that you as the interviewer or hiring manager must fill, it is also useful to determine whether others seek out the candidate as a leader. When others ask a candidate to provide leadership, this demonstrates that the candidate possesses some quality or expertise that others require. When asked to give an example of when others followed his lead, one candidate answered in a humble, quiet demeanor, “Well, there was a very tense situation with a huge customer. We were supposed to deliver something on spec and we missed the deadline and didn’t manufacture it up to spec. The customer was threatening to pull his business. (The customer accounts for 40 percent of our revenues.) Joe came to me and asked if I would be willing to meet with the team to address the situation. I have a long history and a good reputation with this customer. So, I did. The team took my recommendations and we were able to retain the customer. Joe also asked me if I would stay involved with the team for a while to make sure that we maintain the customer’s confidence. It’s been about a year and things are running really well.” This candidate clearly demonstrated that he had expertise, and he influenced the team through his reputation and skill. When you’re evaluating a candidate’s influence, remember that charisma and assertiveness don’t necessarily make a person influential. Influence comes in many different sizes and styles. Look for the type that will make a good fit with the position and your organization. Someone can exercise leadership with a very quiet and unassuming style. Look for results and evidence, not for charm. When interviewing to fill a managerial or leadership position, assess the methods candidates use to influence people. Obviously, they have positional authority; however, look for examples of how they influence people beyond the use of positional authority. If the only answer a candidate can give you is, “I just told Jim he had to do it,” I would be concerned that the candidate isn’t aware of the other methods of influence. Probe deeply to give the candidate an opportunity to tell you about his tactics and methods for influencing followers. In The World’s Most Powerful Leadership Principle, James Hunter describes a pos- PERSONAL INFLUENCE: INFLUENCING OTHERS 115 itive method as “the skill of influencing people to enthusiastically work toward goals identified as being for the common good.”2 To accomplish enthusiastic support and garner a following, leaders must engage people, value them, honor their ideas through listening, and help them to feel important. They must express gratitude and display caring. However, leaders must also display competence. Watch for signs of these behaviors in the answers that you gather. Questions aimed at influencing peers as well as the boss give you valuable insight into the candidate’s method of influence when positional authority doesn’t exist. One candidate, when asked about gaining a peer’s cooperation said, “I went to our boss and let him deal with it.” Again, the interviewer gains important information. Another telling example came when a candidate was asked about resistance. He responded, “I don’t believe in playing games with people. We’re here to get the job done, so whenever I say to do something, I expect people to do it or I tell them they can go somewhere else.” Competency 2: Creating a Positive Work Climate The culture created by the leader directly affects employee satisfaction, retention, creativity, and innovation. One of management’s fundamental tasks is to provide the environment and methods that encourage employee initiative.3 Climate also affects coworkers’ moods and attitudes, with positive mood increasing worker effectiveness and retention.4 Also, a positive climate helps to reduce job stress. Job stress costs U.S. industry $300 billion annually in increased health-care costs and employee absenteeism, so there are many benefits to creating a positive climate, including financial savings, greater job satisfaction, and recruiting advantages for companies.5 Employees report that stress negatively impacts relationships with coworkers, productivity, and decision making.6 Assessing a candidate’s ability to create a positive working culture is often quite desirable when the interviewer or hiring manager is screening candidates for positional leaders. Although climate and culture are certainly affected by events and circumstances beyond the immediate leader’s control, the immediate leader does have control over much of what people experience every day in the workplace. In fact, when low employee morale exists, generally, it can be traced to dysfunctional leadership.7 116 THE EQ INTERVIEW When interviewing a candidate for a leadership position, the interviewer or hiring manager should determine whether or not the candidate assumes responsibility for the workplace climate in her unit or department. Furthermore, determine whether the candidate links leadership behavior to morale issues. The leader has a dual role in understanding his behavioral impact on climate and culture. The leader monitors the actions of his work group to ensure that members treat others with respect and civility. Workplace incivility reinforces isolation and reduces workers’ responses and choices, including ideas, creativity, and participation in decision making.8 The leader must also recognize which of his personal traits and characteristics lead to low morale, including micromanagement, procrastination on decisions, perfectionism, not listening, and overpromising. For example, an immediate leader may not be able to change the impact of negative market conditions, but she can control whether or not people’s ideas or concerns are heard. Consider these examples. Fourteen financial professionals in the Private Equity Department reported to Markus. It didn’t take long for new professionals to get the word—if you wanted someone to mentor you and help you succeed in Private Equity at this financial institution, then work for Markus. His reputation as a great teacher placed high expectations on everyone who reported to him. Everyone was expected to share information with one another and to teach one another. He threw elaborate celebrations when members of his group accomplished special certifications. He also went out of his way to make sure everyone got a piece of the juicy assignments. He believed that if everyone shared in the good assignments, then everyone would learn higher-level skills. While other areas of the Private Equity Department were quiet and stilted, Markus’s area was lively and interactive, with frequent celebrations. Jody managed a retail establishment at a local chain store. There were three such stores within a ten-mile radius. Jody’s reputation as a firm, fun, and fair manager earned her the nickname “Coach.” She went out of her way to accommodate people and set high expectations for performance, and she believed in having fun. People would often transfer from the other store locations to work at Jody’s location. Her turnover rate was the lowest of all the stores in her district. PERSONAL INFLUENCE: INFLUENCING OTHERS 117 Questions to Assess Creating a Positive Work Climate For leaders and managers: Q: Describe the climate or culture of your present department. Q: What specific steps do you take to set the tone within your department? Q: How is the climate within your department different from that of other areas within your company? Q: What evidence do you have that you’ve created a positive climate or culture? Q: Describe the ideal climate of a department. • What actions do you think a leader must take to create an ideal climate? Q: Tell me about a time when your staff was not very energized. • What did you do? Q: Tell me about a time when someone expressed concerns about the working climate of your department. • What did you do? Q: Describe a situation when an employee was disrupting the climate you were trying to establish. • What did you do? For employees: Q: Describe a positive working climate. • What would it feel like? • What do you do to create a positive working climate every day? Q: 118 Give me some examples of what you do to ensure that your coworkers have a positive day. THE EQ INTERVIEW Q: Give me an example of some actions you’ve taken with a negative coworker. • What have you done to create a more positive working relationship with this person? Q: How do you support your supervisor in creating a positive climate in your work unit? KEY POINTS TO CONSIDER WHEN ASSESSING ANSWERS Generally, these questions are for leaders or managers, who should be able to give you answers that indicate that they recognize their responsibility for creating a positive climate within their work group. Good leaders visualize and articulate the culture they expect to create in their work units. That vision should be consistent and fit within your company or organization. In addition, candidates should be able to outline specific steps that they have taken to create a positive climate with their staff. The answers that you gain should give you a good indication of whether or not the candidate even considers climate to be his responsibility. Although organizational issues, market conditions, and other factors influence employee morale and satisfaction, so does the direct leader’s action. Probe further to determine whether the leader recognizes that he controls certain factors, and look for evidence of how the leader acts. It’s also helpful to ask for more than one example. If a person has held more than one leadership position or has worked in multiple companies or organizations, asking for multiple examples gives the interviewer more insight into how the candidate sets the tone or climate when in a leadership role. Some leaders tie the climate to the corporate values of teamwork or respect. Some develop their own set of operating behaviors for their department or team. The key point here is that leaders should have a clear vision, should establish guidelines for interacting that support the vision, should have clearly communicated what’s expected, and should act in a manner that is consistent with this vision. The candidate should also be able to give evidence of the positive culture she created. Is her overturn rate lower than average? Are there opinion surveys or satisfaction surveys that call out her department as unusually high scoring? Even anecdotal evidence can support her claims. One working PERSONAL INFLUENCE: INFLUENCING OTHERS 119 supervisor was able to describe a very positive culture; when asked for evidence, she said, “Well, this isn’t something that you can measure, but when my husband was diagnosed with cancer, my employees all got together. They took it upon themselves to divide up some of my work. They said that while my husband was sick, they were all going to pitch in and try to relieve me of some of my tasks. In addition, they left me a written report every day letting me know what they were able to complete. Everyone worked together on this. It was great.” Obviously, this person did something to engender this kind of support. Another point worth noting involves the energy of the work unit. Energy and mood are contagious, and the leader sets the tone. Is the candidate aware that he or she can take actions to increase the energy level of the group? One candidate said that she noticed that her staff was getting weary during a particularly busy time in the dead of winter. She decided to have a summer luau party one Monday afternoon. It was a total surprise, and she purposely chose Monday. She said the energy and high spirit created by the luau lasted all week. Also, ask about how the leader would address a negative or resistant employee. Will the candidate act to defend the culture he is creating? Will he teach and mentor employees to support the culture? Sometimes, leaders do a good job of envisioning and articulating a positive culture, but they get stymied when someone resists. Perhaps they lack the skill or the courage to address resistance. One leader gave evidence of a very positive culture that he created; then a new person entered the work unit, and her manipulative and backstabbing behavior destroyed what he had created. He said in the interview, “I learned how one person could destroy everything I worked hard to build.” When the interviewer probed with “What did you do when you realized this was happening?” the candidate responded, “Well, there wasn’t much I could do, she was very strong willed.” This sense of helplessness speaks volumes. Assuming that the manipulative person was hired by this leader, the situation would even be worse. The leader didn’t take actions to defend the culture he created, nor did he initially hire someone who would fit into the culture. Although the responsibility for creating a positive climate rests primarily with the leader, employee actions speak volumes. Questioning a candidate about climate and her role in it gives the interviewer or hiring manager insight into the candidate’s self-leadership skills. Does the 120 THE EQ INTERVIEW candidate realize that all people have a role in setting climate or tone? Does she take actions to create a positive climate with peers and others? Ask a candidate some questions to assess what actions and responsibility she takes to set the tone. One candidate said, “It’s not my job to worry about whether or not my coworkers are having a good day. That’s my boss’s job.” On the contrary, if each employee concerned herself with whether or not her coworkers were having a good day, morale problems would go away. Also, serving internal customers (coworkers) requires the attitude that each person manages his behavior to create a positive experience for the people he encounters. Be sure to probe; questions such as these will often elicit simple answers such as, “I’m real easy to get along with. Everyone likes me.” That may be true, but that answer lacks clarity. Dig deeper for specific examples of how the candidate behaves. That characteristic engenders a positive climate. Competency 3: Getting Results Through Others Setting a positive climate may be great for morale and retention, but ultimately, a leader must deliver results. Achieving high morale but accomplishing nothing is simply not an option in today’s corporate world. The interviewer must assess whether or not a candidate achieves important goals through people. The best leader will, of course, deliver on both of these important qualities. Assessing a person’s ability to influence others requires the interviewer or hiring manager to ask for specific examples of achievements as well as the methods the leader used to influence others. Leaders can get results by using some very negative methods, such as threats and fear. A leader can also get results by doing much of the work himself, or by relying heavily on a few key people. Yet, these methods often lead to negative consequences, such as turnover, in the long run. It’s important to balance your questions by asking both about the results that the leader achieved and about how the results were achieved. One study indicated that managers who used positive tactics to influence people, as measured by their ability to interact effectively and gain the approval and support of coworkers, were compensated 29 percent more than their counterparts, indicating that organizations place higher value on how people get results than on the results themselves.9 Leadership also means influencing peers, vendors, customers, and others—all instances where the candidate has no direct authority. De- PERSONAL INFLUENCE: INFLUENCING OTHERS 121 pending on the position you are hiring for, you may want to evaluate the candidate’s ability to get results through others when the candidate does not have positional authority. In higher executive levels, such as directors or above, jobs often require working with and influencing peers to implement enterprisewide solutions. At these levels, methods such as building close working relationships, inviting collaboration, creating open and authentic agendas, and helping others look like heroes produce influence and results. Consider these examples: Freda always looked frazzled. She was constantly rushing and in constant motion. She would jump from one fire to another. Many times, her staff sat around waiting for her to come to their aid or tell them what to do. They lacked clear direction. Also, they required key information from Freda. So they could go only so far in their work, and then they would have to wait until Freda came to their side to provide some type of guidance. Freda worked hard. But she failed to exercise leadership. Although she had the title, she showed no signs of getting results through others. Unfortunately, Freda’s department results reflected her inability to get things done through others. In another example, Sarah’s top priority was making sure her staff understood their job expectations. Also, she took time to establish measures and gave people feedback on their performance. She believed creating the right atmosphere and then providing any kind of support that she could to help people reach their goals produced results. She was right. Sarah’s unit scored the highest results on the balanced scorecard measures for the three most recent quarters. Questions to Assess Getting Results Through Others For managers or leaders: Q: Describe some of the results you’ve achieved in your area within the past year. • How did you achieve those results? Q: In what areas did you fall short of delivering the results you wanted to deliver? • Why did you fall short? • What could you have done differently? 122 THE EQ INTERVIEW Q: Describe how you typically get results from other people. Q: Tell me how you set goals for your staff. • Give me an example of a time when someone wasn’t meeting a goal. • What did you do? Q: Has there ever been a time when no matter what you did, someone was unable to reach a goal? • What did you do? Q: What have you done to share your expectations with your department? Q: Have you ever set a goal too low? • What did you do? Q: Tell me about a time when someone was resisting you, your ideas, or your authority. • What did you do? Q: Tell me about a time that you were wrong in the way that you addressed an employee situation. Q: As a manager, tell me about a time when you didn’t have enough resources to do the job. • What did you do? For employees: Q: Describe a situation when your actions helped others achieve results or goals. KEY POINTS TO CONSIDER WHEN ASSESSING ANSWERS When interviewing candidates for leadership positions, be sure to establish evidence that they use established performance-management techniques. Good performance management requires the leader to establish clear expectations, measure performance, clearly communicate expectations and measures, monitor employee performance, and PERSONAL INFLUENCE: INFLUENCING OTHERS 123
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