The EQ interview finding employees high emotional intelligence part 9

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or problems. The interviewer should listen for times when the candidate willingly offered ideas or solved problems without being asked. Also, the tone in which the candidate offers her ideas is very important. Is the candidate’s tone helpful? Or is the candidate describing a time when she offered advice or input to someone in a way that might sound demeaning or arrogant? Here’s an example: “I told Joe that the best way to do the job was to open the port before he started the process. I told him, but he didn’t listen to me. It could have saved him a lot of time.” This candidate offered her coworker some assistance, but it would be important to clarify exactly what transpired in this interchange. If you think the candidate may have communicated in a way that was arrogant or demeaning, be sure to ask for additional examples. If the candidate paints a consistent picture of offering ideas and having people reject them, you’d have to wonder if the rejection is inherent in the manner in which she is offering the ideas. When asking questions about collaboration, look for a consistent behavior pattern that suggests that the candidate understands and values collaboration, and actively behaves in a way that promotes collaboration. The candidate who is truly collaborative is so because she believes in it, not because the organization expects her to be. For some very senior people, collaboration may be seen as a competitive advantage, and the interviewer may be looking for evidence that senior people will have a vision that includes collaboration in the marketplace. Consider this comment by Paul Polman, CFO of Nestlé: “One of the core challenges of ECR [the retail industry’s efficient consumer response] is to ensure that we foster collaboration when in so many areas we are competitors.”13 Competency 3: Conflict Resolution When people work together, conflict is inevitable. Conflict can stem from many different sources—a clash of ideas, personality, style, values, priorities, or just about anything else you can imagine. Our ability to resolve conflicts in our working relationships is critical. When people are skilled at conflict resolution, they are able to maintain a working relationship while openly discussing differences and coming to a resolution. Healthy conflict resolution allows coworkers to ex- 74 THE EQ INTERVIEW press differences in views for the purpose of learning and not for the purpose of demonstrating superiority over others. Therefore, conflict resolution involves dialogue because it enhances learning, according to Peter Senge.16 It uncovers differences, but it also reveals commonality and helps to clarify and deepen understanding. As you interview to determine how people resolve conflict, you must ask whether the candidate understands the value of dialogue in conflict resolution. Also, look for the methods that the candidate uses to resolve conflict. Does the person listen respectfully? Does she look for common ground? Does she try to understand the other person’s point of view? Does she demonstrate empathy as she engages the other person? Does she openly ask what she could do to satisfy the conflict? Does she state her position clearly? Does the person use the most appropriate communication method for resolving conflict? For example, does the candidate attempt to resolve the conflict faceto-face, or through electronic means? E-mail communication is not the preferred way to resolve conflict because dialogue in this medium is difficult. Sometimes, if they are scattered throughout the United States or abroad, people have no choice in their method of communication, but generally, when the candidate talks about resolving a conflict with someone, try to determine whether she understands the value of talking face-to-face. In fact, one study noted that the potential for conflict is greater in teams whose members are distant and who rely on technology to communicate than in teams whose members can communicate in person.17 This evidence strengthens the case for face-to-face communication in times of conflict. Conflict resolution is an important skill for many different job functions, including leadership. The managers who perform best, as rated by both direct reports and their supervisors, score high in conflict resolution, according to a study released by the Tracom Group.18 Leaders face conflicts over performance issues, policies, and procedures, and conflicts with peers. Interviewers and hiring managers should take special note of conflict-resolution skills if they are interviewing candidates for a leadership position. One manager, when asked about how he resolved a conflict with employees, said, “It’s simple. I tell them if they don’t like it here, they can leave.” This approach doesn’t leave much room for dialogue. SOCIAL EXPERTNESS 75 Questions to Assess Conflict Resolution Q: Tell me about a dispute with a peer. • What was it about? • What did you do? • How did it end up? Q: Tell me about a time when someone suggested something that you disagreed with. • What did you say? Q: How have you resolved differences with peers or others? • Tell me about the process you use to resolve your differences. Q: Have you ever encountered someone at work who was unreasonable? • What did you do? For managers or leaders: Q: Tell me about a time when there was a dispute between two coworkers. • What did you do? Q: Tell me about a time when you had a conflict with an employee. • What did you do? • How was it resolved? Q: Describe a time when someone felt that you were unfair. • What did you do? Q: Relate an incident when someone verbally attacked you about something you said or did. • What did you do? KEY POINTS TO CONSIDER WHEN ASSESSING ANSWERS Answering questions about conflict is uncomfortable for most candidates. Obviously, putting the candidate at ease is important. The inter- 76 THE EQ INTERVIEW viewer should ask questions to gain a balanced view of the candidate’s ability to address conflict. The interviewer will first want to assess whether the candidate typically avoids conflict or addresses the conflict head-on. This information will give the interviewer some indication of fit within a particular job. Most important, the interviewer will want to determine the candidate’s skill level when addressing conflict. What steps or actions does the candidate take to resolve conflict? Does he look for common ground? Does he approach the conflict by putting his opponent at ease? If so, how does he do this? Does he assume the best and seek a win-win solution? What words does he use to accomplish this? You’ll need to probe enough to gain a thorough understanding of the approach the candidate uses. An opening such as, “Juliana, I know that this is important to you, so I’d like to find a way for us to work together on this. I believe we can find a solution that will work for both of us,” sets a win-win tone. It disarms the conflict. Another important consideration is whether the candidate openly states his concerns and needs and invites his opponent to do the same. The dialogue might sound like this: “Why don’t you tell me what a positive resolution would look like, and I’ll do the same for you. Maybe from there we can find some common ground.” Again, the interviewer should be determining how the candidate engages in the conflict. Does it sound reasonable? Incredible as it may sound, when you ask people about a particular conflict, you will hear examples of how people take an extreme position or escalate the matter immediately by bringing it to a supervisor. As the interviewer, you’ll also receive information from the candidate regarding tolerance and diversity issues. People are not all the same, and sometimes personality or values are at the heart of the conflict. Is the candidate overly sensitive to people’s differences? Does he require people to conform to his idea of what’s right? These kinds of issues are quite important to assess. Sometimes, the skill that’s needed is less one of conflict resolution and more one of understanding and valuing differences. Another critical role is the one that a manager or supervisor takes when two people who report to her have a conflict. Does the candidate have a good track record of addressing these types of conflicts? What methods does she use? Is she building her staff’s conflict-resolution skills in the process? Or is she rescuing her employees and con- SOCIAL EXPERTNESS 77 stantly playing mediator? Also, is she bold enough to address conflicts that are interfering with teamwork, morale, and productivity? One final thought on conflict resolution: Some people really are impossible to get along with. Most are not. If the candidate is placing many people in the category of “impossible,” then perhaps it’s the candidate who is impossible. Be sure to ask for multiple examples if you have any doubts. Competency 4: Organizational Savvy Skill and intellect are important attributes that a candidate needs to get the job done. However, skill and intellect will take a candidate only so far. Knowing how to get things done within an organization often requires people to have an understanding of the internal workings of the organization. By this we mean not just rules and regulations, but the savvy to gain sponsors for ideas and get people to buy in to one’s proposals, a keen sense of timing, and an understanding of the who’s who of decision making. What appears on a company’s organizational chart and what happens in reality are often two different things. Organizational savvy is defined as the ability to understand and maneuver within organizations to get things done. In certain jobs, the candidate’s skill and savvy in organizational systems will play a vital role in his success. In a study of high-performing engineers at Bell Labs, Robert Kelley identified organizational savvy as one of the nine work strategies employed by star performers.19 In an article in Nature, Deb Koen stated that mastery of technical skills accounts for only one-third of career success; the remaining two-thirds stems from organizational savvy.20 Asking questions to gain insight into this area is very important for some positions. Generally, at the executive level, this skill is at least as critical to success as a person’s technical ability. In one example, Tammy demonstrated organizational savvy as she advanced an idea to spend more on research and development. Tammy constructed a well-developed plan, but she knew that it would take more than a plan to convince the board to increase spending at the pace she suggested. She knew that one of the directors would favor her plan. She also knew that two others would oppose it. However, Tammy knew that the director who favored her plan and the two 78 THE EQ INTERVIEW that opposed it resisted one another. So, rather than select the director who favored her plan to sponsor it, she decided to approach the remaining neutral members one by one. Her approach worked. Questions to Assess Organizational Savvy Q: Did you ever have an opportunity to advance a new idea at your last job? • How did you go about doing that? Q: Tell me about a time when you gained support for an idea that you had. • How did you do that? • Why was this idea important to you? Q: Describe a time when you couldn’t get support for an idea that you had. • What happened? • Why was this idea important to you? Q: Within your present position, what happens when you run into someone who isn’t supporting your efforts to get things done? • Describe what you do. Q: Have you ever had someone undermine your efforts? • What did you do? Q: How can you tell who makes decisions in your organization? Q: Tell me about a time when you needed support from peers in order to get an idea across. • How did you gain that support? • Why was it important to you to get that particular idea or initiative accomplished? KEY POINTS TO CONSIDER WHEN ASSESSING ANSWERS As an interviewer or hiring manager, if you’ve made the decision that organizational savvy is important to getting certain jobs done, you’ll SOCIAL EXPERTNESS 79 have to assess whether or not the candidate will fit in and understand your organization and have the skills to grasp the dynamics that lead to success. From the candidate’s responses to the questions listed above, you should be able to determine whether he has an understanding that how he approaches people, and whom he approaches, is part of an overall strategy to gain support. The candidate should be able to articulate why certain individuals are key and what methods or tactics he used to gain an individual’s support. Also, the candidate should be able to recognize that each idea is different and may require a different approach to move it forward. You should be able to determine whether the candidate understands and exerts energy to build a strategy to get things done. One candidate said, “I don’t think about how to get ideas across; I just put them out there and see what happens.” Next, focus on whether the candidate has the kinds of relationships that extend across the organization and whether the candidate knows how to engender other people’s support. Look for genuine relationships and support with a wide range of people who are willing to help the candidate. These relationships should not be based solely on an attitude of “I’ll support you if you support me.” The relationships should be more genuine and should be based on trust and respect. The way the candidate describes the support and how he gains sponsors is often very telling. One candidate actually said, “I told Henry that if he expects support for his next initiative, he’d better support me on this.” This kind of ultimatum is not the way to create true teamwork. The candidate will need the ability to read the climate within an organization or even within a meeting in order to be able to assess timing, opportunity, and key players. What is the candidate telling you about her assessment of climate and culture? One candidate, when asked about bringing ideas to fruition, said that every week at the senior staff meeting, there was time on the agenda for each senior staff member to discuss enterprisewide improvement ideas. She said that the tone in some of those meetings was rushed or negative. She noticed that when the meeting tone was rushed, the plant manager often killed ideas with quick one-liners such as “It’s a good idea, but I don’t think we have time for that kind of initiative.” She also noticed that if the production meeting preceding the staff meeting was nega- 80 THE EQ INTERVIEW tive, then rather than entertain new ideas for improvement, the plant manager would say, “We need to focus on getting our numbers up.” The candidate said she realized that these two situations were simply not conducive to the climate needed to “sell” an idea or initiative. She acknowledged that while the plant manager was very powerful, he was also very open and reasonable, as long as he was approached at the right time. This candidate’s responses to the interviewer’s questions indicated that she was able to give specific examples that supported her position. It was obvious that she had the ability to read important information about the climate in her previous position, which allowed her to advance her ideas. Understanding the candidate’s motives or intentions also proves valuable. Is the candidate advancing goals that are for the good of the organization or is he simply building himself up? You should listen for intention. Although it may be difficult to determine intention, by asking questions about why the candidate was pursuing particular ideas, you’ll gain a sense of what the candidate values. One candidate talked about several ideas that he was trying to advance at directors’ meetings. These ideas could be grouped under the heading “gaining a larger piece of the organization under his control.” Now, it’s not unreasonable to want to gain control of things that impact your operation, but the interviewer began to wonder whether this was the best plan for the organization. As the interviewer pressed and asked follow-up questions about why these ideas were worth pursuing, she uncovered the candidate’s motive, expressed in his own words: “I knew if I could get all of these pieces of the organization under my umbrella, then the board would have little choice but to make me the next executive VP.” That motivation is not necessarily bad, but it does require that the interviewer or hiring manager take a second look. SOCIAL EXPERTNESS 81 FIGURE 6.1 Social Expertness at a Glance PRO CONS Building Relationships • Gives concrete examples of positive steps taken to develop work relationships • Can identify and call people as resources because of relationships he has established • Demonstrates sincere valuing of others • Demonstrates actions to build relationships with difficult people • Offers support to others for ideas, projects, etc. • Lacks examples of specific behaviors taken to build relationships • Is unable to recognize need to develop relationships with others • Dismisses difficult people • Initially responds by circumventing difficult people • Keeps score in relationships as evidenced by “He owes me.” Collaboration • Gives concrete examples of involving others • Discusses value of input from others in specific situations • Gives examples of offering input to others • Doesn’t wait until project is complete before involving others • Is unable to give concrete examples of seeking input from others • Is unable to give examples of offering input to others • Emphasizes mostly role of self versus contribution of others • Sees others’ input as criticism Conflict Resolution • Is able to give examples of viable solutions to conflict • Is able to articulate the conflict in unbiased terms • Demonstrates conflict resolution actions such as listening, open discussion, and dialogue • Discusses conflict in terms of what was learned, not what was gained • Values conflict resolution over avoidance • Recognizes that conflict resolution produces better results • Frames conflict as a win-lose • Devalues the other person when describing the conflict • Emphasizes the conflict’s impact on self with little or no acknowledgment of impact on others • Discusses the conflict in terms of what was gained • Avoids conflict at all costs • Placates others to avoid conflict • Comprises own values to avoid conflict 82 THE EQ INTERVIEW FIGURE 6.1 Continued Organizational Savvy PRO CONS • Gives concrete, realistic examples of advancing ideas • Gives evidence of recognizing decision-making processes and alignments within the organization • Gives examples of using organizational savvy to organization’s best interest • Uses unwritten rules to achieve what’s best for the organization • Is unable to give examples of how to advance ideas or suggestions • Uses knowledge of organization to advance own cause or position • Is unable to describe the organization’s decisionmaking channels • Either undervalues or overvalues the “unwritten rules” within organizations Endnotes 1. Robert E. Kelley, How to Be a Star at Work (New York: Times Business, Random House, 1998). 2. Craig Chappelow and Jean Britton Leslie, “Keeping Your Career on Track,” Center for Creative Leadership News 20,6 (2001): 6.3. 3. Karl Albrecht, Social Intelligence: The New Science of Success (San Francisco: Josey-Bass, 2006). 4. V. Matthews, “View from the Top,” Personnel Today (Spring 2007): 19. 5. W.H. Bergquist, The Postmodern Organization: Mastering the Art of Irreversible Change (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1993); Bridges 1991; Fletcher 2001; Wheatly 2002. 6. W. Bridges, Managing Transitions: Making the most of change (New York: Addison Wesley, 1991). 7. J. Fletcher, Disappearing Acts: Gender, Power, and Relational Practice at Work (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2001). 8. M. J. Wheatley, Turning to One Another: Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future (San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler, 2002). 9. Sandra M. Wilson and Shann R. Ferch, “Enhancing Resilience in the Workplace Through the Practice of Caring Relationships,” Organization Development Journal (Winter 2005): 45. 10. Amy E. Randle and Annette Ranft, “Motivations to Maintain Social Ties with Coworkers: The Moderating Role of Turnover Intentions on Information Exchange,” Group and Organizational Management 32, 2 (April 2007): 208. SOCIAL EXPERTNESS 83
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