how to interview for courage and innovation

How to Interview For Courage and Innovation

Violet recruited Brian into the General Manager role because of his long track record of success at an established Fortune 500. Her company was on a trajectory of fast growth, so she wanted Brian to up their game. In the interview, he shared lots of best practices from his old company.

Brian’s previous employer was known for its best-in-class training and consistent customer service. The more she heard in the interview, the more excited she was. Brian was perfect for the job.

Until he wasn’t.

As it turns out, Brian thrived in a high-clarity culture. When handed a playbook, he knew exactly what to do. And did it flawlessly. But in the whirlwind of a fast-growing start-up, he was completely lost. He had trouble transferring what he had learned in his old role to his new job.  Frustrated by the lack of guidelines and procedures, he kept going to his boss for help in making every little decision. He was too overwhelmed to innovate. He was lucky to just get through the day.

In the interview, Violet had been so focused on what the company was doing, she didn’t get a good sense of Brian’s capacity to replicate it on his own.

On the rebound from Brian, Violet went in a different direction. This time hiring Sal, a bright millennial with tons of ideas. Sal was the poster child of gung-ho. He had been wildly successful in his last gig at a company known for their innovative culture BECAUSE he had a right-hand guy who operationalized his ideas.

Without that guy, Sal was lost. Violet had been so impressed with Sal’s energy and charisma in the interview, she forgot to ask him about his role in actually making those ideas come to life.

Has that ever happened to you?

You deliberately recruit from a company with the culture you’re looking to create. Your recruit looks great on paper. S/he’s got a tremendous track record of success. But within the first ninety days, you know you’ve made a wrong choice.

When it comes to hiring for courage, innovation AND the ability to execute with clarity, it makes sense to fish where the fish are most likely to be—to identify companies with cultures that are doing this well and to recruit for the leaders who are making this happen. Make sure you also dig a levelInspiring Innovation Cover deeper to ensure your candidate has actually been instrumental in what you’re looking to accomplish and in similar circumstances to what they’ll encounter in your organization.

Ideally, your candidate will have competencies on both sides of the clarity-curiosity dance so vital in building a courageous culture (for more on building a Courageous Culture, download our FREE Whitepaper)

Or you can strategically build integrated teams with complementary skill sets.

Courageous Culture Interview Questions

Here are a few structured interview questions that will help you dig a level deeper with your candidate to gauge their experience in contributing to, and building, a courageous culture.

Their Track Record of Courage and Innovation

  • What’s the best idea you’ve ever had to improve the business?  Tell me about the idea. What did you do with it and what happened as a result?
  • Tell me about a time that you strongly disagreed with your manager. What was the issue? How did you work to resolve the conflict?
  • Describe the most difficult problem you’ve ever faced at work. How did you work to overcome it? What are most proud of about your approach and what would you do differently the next time?
  • What’s the biggest mistake you’ve ever made at work? What did you learn?

Leading Others to Be Courageous and Innovative

  • Have you ever lead a team through a large scale change? What was it? Describe the process you took. What was the result?
  • What techniques do you use to encourage employees to share ideas to improve the business?
  • In this company, we require every employee to think and act like a customer advocate. How would you know if that were happening on your team?
  • How do you build problem-solving and critical thinking skills in your employees? Tell me about your biggest success story in this arena?

Your turn. What are your favorite interview questions to uncover courage and innovation?

Great Leaders Have No Rules

Great Leaders Have No Rules-Interview with Kevin Kruse

 

What are the rules you’ve created that get in the way of you and your team’s success? What if there were a better way?

In this powerful interview with serial-entrepreneur, New York Times best selling author, and LEADx founder, Kevin Kruse, we discuss the vast power of co-creation and the ownership you can build in your team (and life). Recognize that Great Leaders Have No Rules (the title of Kevin’s most recent book) and how to lead yourself and your team in a way that transforms outcomes, is more fun, and doesn’t drive you or anyone else nuts.

Oh, and there are a few bits of marketing wisdom and personal leadership examples too.

Links from the show:

More about How to Improve Your Team Communications – and the Checklist

Learn more about Kevin Kruse

Check out Kevin’s LEADx project and podcast

Great Leaders Have No Rules

 

 

leadership competencies: how to hold a great interview

How to Interview For Winning Leadership Competencies

You’re working hard to build a Winning Well culture. You’ve identified your MIT leadership competencies and are working to cultivate and encourage the right behaviors. How you staff your key leadership roles matters more now than ever.

How will you identify the very best candidates for reinforcing your Winning Well culture?  How will you identify the candidates who really exhibit Winning Well leadership competencies, versus those who just talk a good game?

Be sure you’re asking strategic questions that require candidates to share how they’ve actually demonstrated the leadership competencies you’re selecting for.

Here a few strategic, behavior-based interview questions based on eight key behaviors we build in our Winning Well training programs. and keynote speeches.

We encourage you to weave a few of them into your next interview.

Winning Well Leadership Interview Guide

RESULTS

how to help your middle managers find their sweet spot

Tell me about a time when you had way too much to do—how did you decide what was most important? How did you prioritize? What was the outcome?

Describe three ways you work to communicate and reinforce expectations on your team.

Tell me about at a time you helped turn around a serious performance issue. What was your approach? What was the outcome?

play the game don't game the score

What metrics do you use to measure your success in your current role? How do you keep your team focused on achieving those outcomes?

What do you see as the most critical behaviors in this new position? How would you go about reinforcing them?

Can you tell me about a time a supervisor wanted you to focus on something you knew wasn’t a priority for your customer, your team, or the company? How did you handle it? What was the outcome?

RELATIONSHIPS

Describe the best team you ever worked on. What was your role in making it a success?

When you are working on a strategic project in your current job, how do you go about identifying the relevant stakeholders? How do you get them involved?

Can you tell me about a time you joined a new team and how you built trust with your new teammates?

trust the trenches

Tell me about a project where you successfully delegated some important tasks. How did you decide what to delegate and to whom?

How do you help your team recover from setbacks?

Can you share a time where one of your team members had a new perspective and how you were able to incorporate it into your work?

CONFIDENCE

what makes you a rock star in your role? What makes you a rock star in your current role? How would you leverage those strengths in this new position?

Tell me about a time you had to make a tough decision with limited information. What was the situation? How did you approach it?

What are your favorite techniques for building confidence and competence in your team members?

ditch the diaper drama #WinningWellTell me about a time you had a really tough conversation with an employee. How did you approach it? What was the outcome?

Describe a decision you made that was unpopular and you how implemented it.  What was the situation? Who was involved? What did you do? What was the outcome?

Can you share a time when you seriously disagreed with your boss and were convinced you were right? How did you address it? What was the outcome?

HUMILITY

Own the UglyWhat’s the biggest mistake you’ve ever made at work? How did you recover?

Describe a time a project you were leading did not turn out as you had hoped.  What was the situation? Who was involved? What did you do? What was the outcome?

What is the most difficult apology you’ve ever had to make at work? What made it challenging? How did you do it?

What tools and techniques do you use to get feedback from your team?

How would you describe your conflict style? Tell me about a time that you had a significant conflict at work where that style served you well. Tell me about a time when that style got in the way.

Who are your most important stakeholders in your current role? How do you go about getting feedback from them?

Some other innovative interview questions that help uncover leadership competencies

Inc. 9 Interview Questions You Need to Be Asking

LinkedIn: Hiring For Trust: 9 Interview Questions

Fast Company: 7 Interview Questions for Measuring Emotional Intelligence

Your Turn

What are some of your favorite interview questions to ensure you have leaders that are committed to Winning Well?

Why You’re Not Getting Hired

I get frustrated and sad when I see highly qualified people unable to sell themselves in a job they deserve. It happened again, perhaps you know someone who can benefit from this story and actions that followed.

Meet Me in St. Louis

The sweet woman next to me on the flight from Denver to St. Louis shared her story. She had a masters in teaching, and yet kept piecing together assistant jobs to make ends meet for her and her 7-year-old son. This meant no benefits and often waitressing on the side. She couldn’t seem to get hired in a permanent gig. “I just don’t seem to be what they’re looking for.” She had an interview that afternoon for a “real” teaching job. Game on.

When I asked her about what “they were looking for” in previous interviews, the conversation led to rubrics and curriculum and other teacher-y words. Her lack of experience drained the confidence from her explanation. “I keep trying to figure out what they want, and I think that makes my answers fuzzy.”

Let’s try an approach that will get you hired.

Why are you passionate about education (to hang in this long). What makes you unique as a teacher?

Seat 14 B suddenly radiated a new energy. She told me stories of raising her son bi-lingual and how she incorporates that into the classroom. How she’s an artist and how she marries art history with reading and writing in interactive field trips in the park. She shared her proactive efforts to learn at conferences and share with her peers.

And so, I asked the obvious question.  Have you ever shared any of that in an interview? 

She stopped. “No.”

They Don’t Know They’re Looking For You

In an effort to be what “they” want, she was masking her gifts. They can’t possibly think they are looking for a bi-lingual artist, with a masters in teaching, and a passion for making reading fun. It doesn’t mean they won’t jump when they see that. I would want my first grader in her class.

Teacher’s Homework

The flight was ending so we outlined an approach.

  1. Identify the 3 gifts that differentiated her as a teacher (Art, Languages later I found she knows more than 2), and Reading
  2. Practice the starting statement here’s what I’m about (she needed an elevator speech)
  3. Prepare examples that highlight her 3 gifts (specifics, with outcomes and results)
  4. Anticipate the tough questions, and weave in her gifts
  5. End with confidence. “I don’t want to appear cocky.” (She was about 7 degrees of separation from cocky confidence matters).

Your Homework

  1. Identify your 3 gifts
  2. Curate your stories and examples to explain them
  3. Identify the audience
  4. Tell your story
  5. Grow them more

More Tools to Get Hired

Why You're Not Getting Hired

I get frustrated and sad when I see highly qualified people unable to sell themselves in a job they deserve. It happened again, perhaps you know someone who can benefit from this story and actions that followed.

Meet Me in St. Louis

The sweet woman next to me on the flight from Denver to St. Louis shared her story. She had a masters in teaching, and yet kept piecing together assistant jobs to make ends meet for her and her 7-year-old son. This meant no benefits and often waitressing on the side. She couldn’t seem to get hired in a permanent gig. “I just don’t seem to be what they’re looking for.” She had an interview that afternoon for a “real” teaching job. Game on.

When I asked her about what “they were looking for” in previous interviews, the conversation led to rubrics and curriculum and other teacher-y words. Her lack of experience drained the confidence from her explanation. “I keep trying to figure out what they want, and I think that makes my answers fuzzy.”

Let’s try an approach that will get you hired.

Why are you passionate about education (to hang in this long). What makes you unique as a teacher?

Seat 14 B suddenly radiated a new energy. She told me stories of raising her son bi-lingual and how she incorporates that into the classroom. How she’s an artist and how she marries art history with reading and writing in interactive field trips in the park. She shared her proactive efforts to learn at conferences and share with her peers.

And so, I asked the obvious question.  Have you ever shared any of that in an interview? 

She stopped. “No.”

They Don’t Know They’re Looking For You

In an effort to be what “they” want, she was masking her gifts. They can’t possibly think they are looking for a bi-lingual artist, with a masters in teaching, and a passion for making reading fun. It doesn’t mean they won’t jump when they see that. I would want my first grader in her class.

Teacher’s Homework

The flight was ending so we outlined an approach.

  1. Identify the 3 gifts that differentiated her as a teacher (Art, Languages later I found she knows more than 2), and Reading
  2. Practice the starting statement here’s what I’m about (she needed an elevator speech)
  3. Prepare examples that highlight her 3 gifts (specifics, with outcomes and results)
  4. Anticipate the tough questions, and weave in her gifts
  5. End with confidence. “I don’t want to appear cocky.” (She was about 7 degrees of separation from cocky confidence matters).

Your Homework

  1. Identify your 3 gifts
  2. Curate your stories and examples to explain them
  3. Identify the audience
  4. Tell your story
  5. Grow them more

More Tools to Get Hired

Interviewing? 4 Ways to Set Yourself Apart

It takes more than qualifications to get the job. Don’t count on your track record. In a close race, best prepared wins.

Two candidates were interviewing for a District Sales Manager position. Both had great backgrounds and qualifications. Both nailed the Behavior Based Interview, and we moved on to talk about their planned approach.

Joe (not his real name) came with his generic 90 day strategy. It was as if he had read Michael Watkin’s Book, The First 90 Days,* and copied the generic advice into his plan. His key actions looked like that of so many other candidates. Part of Joe’s plan was to visit every store in his territory in the first 30 days. Yawn.

*p.s I love Watkin’s book. It’s a great read when applied well.

Before her interview, Jane (not her real name), took 2 days off and visited all the stores in the new territory (across a 200 mile radius) in plain clothes. She came prepared with a list of observations, priorities, a platform for improvement, and a robust plan to begin tackling the issues in the first 30 days. She nailed the interview.

Jane’s now knocking that job out of the park.

A Deeper Approach to Interviewing

When interviewing, don’t bring generic plans. Do your homework. Go learn something deeper to discuss.

1. An Understanding of the Business

Talk to people. Arrange advanced visits if you can. Determine who is best-in-class. Understand the current priorities. Use real data to share specifics for your strategy. Come with informed questions. How far you can go with this will depend on whether you are interviewing internally or externally. However, you may be surprised how much data you can find in either circumstance. You can gain much from a solid google search.

2. A Platform

Just like a political candidate, be prepared to share your vision for this role. What is the one big thing you will accomplish? Share why you are passionate about your vision. Articulate the unique aspects of your leadership.

3. Your Angle

Describe your key skills and abilities and how they will benefit this organization. Make connections between unrelated roles. Describe how your diverse experience has built transferable skills perfect for this position.

4. Your Track Record

Come prepared with specific results and deliberate stories that highlight your leadership. Don’t just share your stack rankings(a common approach), share how you achieved them.

How to Stink at a Behavior-Based Interview

Most companies use behavior-based interviews for leadership jobs.

Many leaders are really bad at them.

I have seen many highly qualified candidates not get hired because of their inability to tell the right story in the right way.

In a Behavioral Based Interview, candidates are asked to describe a situation, share what happened, and communicate the results. In other words, to share a story.

Behavior-based questions work well because they require the candidate to draw on real experiences and communicate stories in an articulate way.

They can also backfire, when great candidates bomb the interview because of lack of preparation.

How to Stink at a Behavior-Based Interview

  • Pick the wrong story, usually the first one that comes to mind
  • Select a story with a bad ending
  • Get carried away in your story-telling, sharing too much detail and going in circles
  • Leave out the detail, leaving too much to the imagination.
  • Forget to share the point of your story
  • Share a story in which you did not have a central role (sharing someone else’s success)
  • Over-use of the word “I” when you are describing an effort you led
  • Keep using the same job or example over and over (don’t laugh, this is one of the most common mistakes)
  • ???

How to Prepare for Success

  • Make a list of the competencies or skills most required for the job
  • Go back through your work experiences, and find the best examples (stories) that showcase your skills in these areas.
  • Develop a plan for which stories you plan to share
  • Build out your stories to include brief context, specific actions, and results
  • Practice telling them to a mentor or friend
  • ???

It is useful to keep a journal or archive of your best stories that you can call on as needed. Capture the details while the story is fresh so it will be easier to recall when the time is right. I am known for reminding my team to “remember this story” for their next interview or elevator speech, right after we have experienced a success.

Also, most leaders I know are more than willing to help their teams prepare for interviews and to consider the right stories to include. It is helpful to do a mock interview or two with a boss or mentor before you are even looking for the next opportunity.