Tough Interview Questions: What Makes You Effective?

What Makes You Effective?

This is a question that will be asked of the person at the manager-level and above.  

There is a difference between the expectation of a managerial candidate versus someone in a leadership role.  As you get progressively up the organizational ladder, there are greater expectations that you think holistically in answering the question.  

So, the question is, “What makes you effective?”

As a manager, you over basically monitoring performance, you’re driving the bus, you are managing the behaviors of the team of individuals to ensure that tasks are performed right.  I’m simplifying it, but ultimately that’s what it boils down to; you’re managing a team of individuals to ensure that the performing the tasks that need to be done within the time limit that’s been established for them.  

As you become more of a leader, it’s less about driving the bus (that’s the way I interpret that language of management) into selecting teams of people who are inspired to get things done.  I want to differentiate “inspiration” from “motivation.”  A great definition I learned from Lance Secretan, one of the world’s leading executive coaches and he describes motivation as being that “driving the bus” kind of behavior. They have to “do it for you.”  versus inspiration is that they want to do it.  That they have that internal drive, that internal determination to get things done.

So, in this particular case, I turn around and say, “What makes you effective?”  And the answer starts with hiring a great team of individuals to work with me, people who want to do well, and are committed to the organization and this particular project and team.  So number 1, notice how you are passing off credit to other individuals and if you’re acknowledging that you hired great people.

Number 2 is, these individuals care and they want to get things done.  Before you start thinking that I’m just sitting back at my desk, collecting a check, (obviously being facetious with the language here), obviously I have to look at the perspective of how my managers are getting things done.  How my directors are getting things done to ensure that if there are any friction points, they are cleared up.

From there, it’s impossible to get everything clear, but I want to create as frictionless an environment as possible with the idea being we want to have this environment… Do you see where I am going with this?  I am describing what I do from 30,000 feet versus 3 feet. At 3 feet, you are into everything.  You may be micromanaging.  You may be operating a little bit more hands-off.  

But again, at 3 feet you’re in the weeds; at 30,000 feet, you are looking from a hierarchical perspective, and looking at the politics of the organization, trying to create less friction for the team to get things done that they have been hired to do to get done and what makes you effective is to hire people who are inspired to do this.  Obviously, I am simplifying things.  You’ve got your way of expressing this.  I think this is a good way to look at the difference between being in the weeds versus 30,000 feet.  

So, if you’re in the C suite, you are not in the weeds.  If you’re an executive of an organization. You not in the weeds.  You have people who do things and you monitor your managers, directors, and VP’s performance to ensure things are getting done.

There is quite a story about Alan Mullally, former president of Ford, who took over the organization at a time that they were failing.  This is during the crisis of 2008 and he came up with a very simple system that was designed to have his leadership communicate with him where they were on their goals.  It was a color-coded system and these people had been trained to give everyone including the leadership of the organization, their bosses, a “thumbs up” that everything was going well. Yet, the firm was losing billions of dollars.  

Mullally saw the reports from his senior leadership and they’re all green coded, “This is fabulous!  I guess we’re happy to be losing billions of dollars every year!”   

What he needed to do was change the communications style and not punish people who told the truth.  You can work this story in (I would encourage you to go research it for yourself) but I’m sure you can also work in the element that says, “and I create an environment where my leadership and even some of the staff people feel as though they can come and give me the bad news.  I am not talking about squabbles within the organization, but I’m talking about the difficult messages that sometimes leadership doesn’t hear and needs to have brought to their attention.  I create that kind of environment where people will come to me to tell me the bad news as well as the good news.”  

Ⓒ The Big Game Hunter, Inc., Asheville, NC 2020



Jeff Altman, The Big Game HunterJeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a coach who worked as a recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. His work involves career coaching, all as well as executive job search coaching, job coaching, and interview coaching. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 1900 episodes, and is a member of The Forbes Coaches Council.

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Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter
Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter

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