Tuesday, December 09, 2008

What Would You Ask Your Potential Manager?

Job interviews don’t really give you a chance to ask your potential manager a lot about how they manage – you don’t want to come off half-cocked and sounding like an arrogant know-it-all.

But when you are hiring a manager, you can really put them in the hot seat.
Here are some of the questions I ask when I hire anyone who is going to be taking care of my staff. Listen long and loud – some of these may be unconventional, but then, if I’m going to put you in charge of the most valuable people in the company – the workers – you’d better be able to give me the answers I want to hear.

How do you manage yourself?
May sound silly at first, but it isn’t – it is based in logical practicality. To be a good leader, you have to set the example, and if you can’t make it to your own meetings on time, I don’t want you. Self management is about being “employee number one” – being the model employee – doing what you say, and showing how to do the right thing. It is about dressing the right way, talking the right way, performing the right way, and above all, walking the talk – leading a team by setting the perfect example.

What’s the most unexpected thing that has ever happened, and what did you do?
Being able to handle the unexpected is to be expected. If you can’t think quick on your feet, you’ll be on your back when I toss you out the door. Management is more than just budgets and timelines, it’s all about people. Everyone has their own lives in and outside of work, and life isn’t always routine. To be a manager on my team, you’d better be able to handle surprises.

How much do you know about those who report directly to you?
I don’t want to hire potential stalkers, but as I said before, management is all about people. To be an exceptional manager, you need to be personable, and get to know your team. You need to know the names of their significant others, and their children’s names, and ages (if they have them). What they do when they aren’t working – for fun, or just because. Why? See next question.

How often do connect with your staff and how?
This is a bit of a loaded question. Often, potential wanna-be managers instantly assume I’m asking them how they talk about work with their staff. What I’m really looking for is how often they connect with their staff on a social or personal level. How often do they take the time to just chat about their kid’s, their significant other, or some other non-work related thing, in an attempt to open up and get similar information back from those they work with. By sharing stories about the things going on in our lives outside the office, we learn that we are all really alike in some ways and different in others. We learn how to accept ideas and values which may be different then our own, and we can base our working relationships on pseudo-quasi friendship, by sharing similarities. So when a colleague calls saying they are going to be late because they had to rush their kid’s forgotten lunch to school, you understand and empathize with them, rather than chewing them out.

How do you connect with staff?
Again, I don’t want to hear about how wonderful you are at booking meetings, and how accurate your minute taking is. I want to know how you get your staff to open up with you on a social or personal level. You can’t just go up to all of your staff, and start asking them about their significant others, the names and ages of their kids, and where they live – they’d get scared and quite rightly think you’re not playing with a full deck of cards. The best managers, are exceptional people people.

How many have you lost under your command?
I often start this question off with a story, about how military leaders are often judged by how many soldiers have been sent to their deaths under their leadership – obviously, the fewer deaths, the better the leader. Then I ask them how many people have quit under their leadership? Granted, not everyone will have left because of their leadership – or lack of leadership – there are many reasons why people leave a company. But a sign of a good manager, just like a military leader, is the one with the fewest casualties. Good managers can retain and keep good employees, even under some of the most undesirable circumstances. I’ve been in places where the budgets were small, the resources limited, and the opportunities few and far between, yet people had been working there forever – because those running the place were exceptional coaches, mentors and leaders.

Who is the most important member of your team and why?
Anyone who actually identifies any one individual or group as the most important team member is automatically disqualified from ever being a manager for me. This is a trick question – there is no “I” in team – no one is more important than anyone else. And even if you have the largest team in the company under your beck and call, your team is no more or less important than any other team or department in the company. The best managers know the importance of getting all teams to work together.

No comments:

Post a Comment