The Best Answers to: How Do You Manage?

Companies are always looking for people who have the potential to advance within the organization. One of the keys to progressing is being an effective manager.

When we’re interviewing candidates we spend a significant amount of time on the management portion, probing several areas. The answers we get vary depending on someone’s management style, but below are some we thought were particularly good. As you read through these, think about your management style and how it applies to each one of these questions.

Describe Your Management Philosophy – What we’re trying to learn here is the person’s view on how a team should be managed. This is their overarching philosophy. A VP at Yahoo! had a great answer to this question. She said, “I automatically believe in my people. If there’s a problem, I look to myself first.” A CEO of a start-up gave this answer, “I like to eliminate fear so that people try new things and are not afraid to make mistakes. But, they shouldn’t make the same mistake twice.”

What’s Your Management Style? – One VP articulated what we like to hear: “I set out a clear vision, remove any obstacles they can’t remove and then ‘turn them loose’ to accomplish their goals.” Other things we look for are: giving them stretch assignments and credit (especially publically) , being accessible, creating a collaborative environment while holding people accountable, and mentoring.

How Do You Motivate People? The best managers empower their teams so that everyone “owns” a part of the business. It’s a big motivator when people see how their part contributes to the overall success of the brand, division and company. Knowing that their efforts matter on a larger scale, incents them to do their best work. Another way to motivate individuals on your team is to find out what makes them tick. One CFO said, “I determine what motivates each individual and then develop a plan that addresses their needs.” Rewards are also great motivators. Make it a point to celebrate the individual wins, but also focus on the success of the group.

What Do You Look for When You Hire? – Beyond the expected skill set, we like managers who look for passion, creativity, leadership potential and problem solvers. One senior executive said, “I look for people who complement my skills. Are enthusiastic, ingenious, passionate, and have a sense of humor. It’s hard to work with people who don’t have one.”

Give an Example of How You Turned a Problem Employee Around – What we look for is how patient the manager is and how dedicated they are to helping the person succeed. The best answers are ones where the manager demonstrates how they effectively mentored someone to improve their performance. Someone gave a great answer to this question and then added, “When I can’t turn someone around, I look to see if there’s another role within the organization which might better leverage their skills.”

Tell Us About Someone You Developed Who Got Promoted – Developing your team is key to your success, the individuals and the company’s. Good answers include assigning projects that mesh with the needs of the individual and those of the company; increasing someone’s visibility to senior management, either by talking them up or having them attend an executive meeting; and appropriately delegating so they get exposure to new things. Ideally, you were the architect of their development plan and their mentor. The combination of these resulted in their promotion. A sales manager told us, “I take a real interest in their career goals and work with them to achieve what they want.”

Give an Example of How You Inspired Others – A President of a Cosmetic company put it best, “I inspire by having a collaborative style. Getting everyone to believe in the mission. Listening to my team and soliciting their ideas. I firmly believe that the best ideas can come from anywhere.” Another executive indicated that one of his keys to success was getting people to see that statements about “what can’t be done” were really just highlighting areas of opportunity.

People who have “cracked the code” on managing have propelled their careers forward. It’s a basic fact that you can’t get to the top without the success of the people who work for you. Rate yourself on the above areas and if you fall short, take a page from what these successful executives are doing.

Fred & Gladys
Whelan Stone
Executive Search and Coaching
Authors of GOAL! Your 30 Day Career Plan for Business & Career Success

About whelanstone

I'm originally from New York - lost my accent when I moved down to Florida - and made San Francisco my home in 1985. I've been recruiting & coaching for 12 years, with the best partner (Fred) you could ask for, and love what I do. When I'm not busy working I write screenplays (haven't sold one yet) and travel - Morocco this past summer was fantastic. Fred and I started this blog because we wanted to share what we've learned along the way. Hope you enjoy reading it as much as we do writing it.
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