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Describe a time when you had to motivate your team
How do you get the most out of your team members?
What the interviewer is looking for by asking this question
Good leadership is about providing assistance and motivation to your team in order to inspire them to be as productive as possible in achieving the organisation’s aims.
There are a number of different leadership styles and different ways of inspiring your team.
The interviewer is asking this question because they want to see how you inspire your team and whether your leadership style is a good fit with their organisation.
The best way to judge someone’s leadership style is to see how they work in action. Obviously since this is an interview it would be hard for them to put you through a simulation, so the next best thing is to see how you have fared in the past.
So the interviewer wants to see how your leadership style played out in a previous scenario and whether you were successful in getting the most out of your team.
The best approach to answering this question
Before you enter the interview you should have done some research on the company you are applying for. Try and look at their senior leadership team. Check them out on LinkedIn. You can usually get a good feel for someone’s management style by the things they post. You want to make sure you are a good fit so try to mimic their style as much as is feasible.
This is a “Tell me about a time” question so the best way to answer this is using the B-STAR technique.
Let’s see how that would work with this question:
B – Belief – Talk about your thoughts or philosophies with regard to leadership and motivating a team. The best answers as discussed earlier will mimic the style of leadership present within the company.
S – Situation – Tell the interviewer what the situation was that required extra motivation of your team. Keep it simple as you do not have much time to answer each question. Don’t get bogged down in details. A simple scenario like “we had a deadline fast approaching that required ‘all hands on deck'” is enough detail to provide here.
T – Task – What was your role in this situation? Obviously given the question that has been asked you want to ensure that your example has you in the management seat. It should be your responsibility to get your team members to complete the task at hand.
A – Activity – What did you do? List out the activities that you completed in order to get the team motivated in getting the job done. Good answers here will include how you removed all blockers/distractions that would impede the team and how you provided encouragement (maybe in the way of a bonus?) to get the job done.
R – Results – What happened in the end? Remember this is an interview so you don’t want to share a failure. Pick an example where your inspiration led your team to complete all the required actions, and everyone went home happy.
How NOT to answer this question
Do not say your team don’t need convincing. Sure, a well run team will require very little convincing to put in the hard work when it’s needed. So even if it is true that you never need to do much convincing don’t just handwave the question away. Talk about the steps you go through to ensure that the team doesn’t need convincing, talk about the steps you take to provide further encouragement and motivation during challenging work periods.
Do not talk about a time when you or your team failed. Sure failing is a fact of life. And each failure provides valuable lessons that let us learn and adapt so that next time we are less likely to fail. But this is not the place to talk about that – the right place to talk about that is when the interviewer asks “Tell me about a time that you failed”.
Do not threaten your team in your example. A really good motivator of course is to tell your team members that if they don’t get the job done then they will be demoted/docked-pay/fired. But this will not endear you to an interviewer, good leaders are able to motivate employees without the ‘stick’ of punishment. Show you are a good leader.
Tell me about a time when you had to convince others to put in ‘the hard work’ – Example answer
“I always feel that when you have a good team working for you that often you don’t need to convince anyone to get the job done, that’s why I believe in a strong recruitment policy of only employing the best and maintaining high standards within the organisation.
Of course there will always be times when a little more motivation is needed. One such occasion happened recently. One of our most valued customers asked if we could provide delivery on one of our products a month earlier than originally scoped.
The organisation agreed to ‘try our best’ when it came to this request but made the customer aware of the challenges of this new date.
The challenge was given to me and my team to try and achieve this new date. Ensuring open communication with the team is important to me so the first thing I did was meet with my team to ensure that they all knew of the new challenge.
We looked at the obstacles that lay in the team’s way and I removed them where practical.
To show the team that we really appreciated the effort they were putting in we made each Friday pizza day paid for by the organisation and told each team member that they would each receive a paid day off once the product was delivered (regardless of whether the new deadline was met or not).
The team were extremely motivated by this and with nothing stopping them we managed to deliver the customer their product within the new timeframes. The customer was thrilled with the service we provided and actually sent across a week’s supply of office fruit as thanks for helping them turn things around under short notice.”
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