The interviewer is trying to learn more about the challenges you currently face, as a leader. If hired, this information will help the company to know where you could use additional training, encouragement, or education. Every leader has an aspect that is challenging for them. Share your most challenging aspect of leadership but also highlight the steps that you take to alleviate or overcome that challenge. One common challenge for leaders has to terminate an employee. Another problem could be continually motivating unengaged employees. A big challenge could also be sourcing and utilize the best hiring resources to shave down your time spent on reading resumes.
"One challenge that I face as a leader is to avoid frustration when employees show continued disinterest in our company's education opportunities. My current company has an amazing program available for continued education, yet only about 32% of our employees take advantage. To alleviate this frustration, I am starting a company-wide recognition program for all employees who explore this option with our company."
"Currently I only lead the temporary administrative assistants that we hire, from time to time, during peak seasons. It is a challenge because it's re-training a new person everytime the agency provides us with a new temp."
"My current team is spread out in different states. As a regional manager, it is crucial that I understand local markets, slang, and customs when talking to individuals and the team."
"I currently collaborate with my team, but am not in a specific management position. That said, I feel as though I lead by example and naturally take the lead in marketing projects or delegation of tasks when working in a collaborative environment."
"The most challenging aspect of being a leader, in my opinion, is managing the large variety of personalities. It takes some time to get to know everyone, but I am confident that I can do it."
"The largest challenge I've faced as a leader is working with an unmotivated employee who cannot seem to be motivated by the normal channels. Typically, this stems from hiring a poor fit for the role but happens far too often. It's so important, as a leader, to work on consistently coaching up or coaching out."
"In my current classroom, we have a bit of a power struggle between a few of the students. It is a challenge to navigate, and I have tried a variety of seating arrangements as well as group meetings involving the Principal. The next step will be parent involvement which I am planning to avoid."
The interviewer wants to know how you react to uncomfortable tasks and awkward conversations. No matter how seasoned a leader you are, it is never fun to deliver a poor performance review. Highlight to the interviewer that you are confident in your professionalism and communication skills, that you are capable of challenging conversations, and that you can give helpful feedback while providing important mentorship to your team. If you do not have experience with performance reviews, it is okay! Tell the interviewer that you have never been in a role where you needed to give a formal performance review, but you look forward to learning the process. Add an example of a time when you provided someone with constructive feedback instead. This example can be in the workplace, school, or maybe even on a sports team. Discuss how you ensured that you did not humiliate the individual but that you discretely pulled them aside to have the conversation. Finally, be sure to mention that the person continued to have a healthy relationship with you following the discussion. This fact will highlight that you handled the situation professionally.
"A large part of my role is to give monthly performance reviews to my team of 13 employees. When I need to deliver a poor review, the employee is already aware that I will be looking for improvement in their performance. This awareness is because I stay in close contact with all of my employees on their monthly progress."
"Yes, I have had to give critical employee reviews to temporary associates before. It is a task that I do no love doing but can do it."
" When I deliver an unsavory review, I act as a mentor and ask the employee to work with me on a performance plan. I never want anyone to feel like they are on the verge of being fired because that never improves an employees performance. I want them to feel like they are part of an important collaboration."
"I haven't had to give any employee reviews in a management capacity, but when I left one role, it was in large part due to the poor management. That said, I did sit down with the CEO before I left and gave him candid feedback about the VP of Sales that no one else was going to provide while still working for the company. It was indeed uncomfortable, but it was valuable feedback to give to him, and he made company decisions based off of it."
"Performance reviews were handled by my manager. However, I did give employees warnings and write-ups for performance failures. I felt that I was doing them a service by helping them see what they needed to do to improve."
"When giving an employee review, if possible, I start by asking them to assess their performance. Almost without fail, they will point out the shortcoming that I am noticing, and we then can have a positive brainstorming session about it together, rather than feeling like I am reprimanding them."
"I give student reviews all the time, even aside from report card time. I am comfortable giving constructive feedback in any situation; however, I have never critiqued a fellow teacher."
Interviewers want to hear that you have experience teaching or mentoring other employees one-on-one. You may have taught a new hire all of your department's standard processes. Perhaps you taught a long-standing employee how to use Excel. You may have mentored an employee who was struggling to hit their monthly goals. All of these scenarios are great examples to draw on. Better yet, if you have personally seen someone struggling with workplace skills or knowledge, approached them, and offered to mentor them, it is a shining example of leadership! Whatever your scenario may be, tell the interviewer what you helped the person with, while highlighting the positive outcome of their skills improvement.
"Last week our company introduced a new module in our SAP system. I could see that our contracted HR Assistant was having some troubles with the new module. I was familiar with it already, so I offered to help him learn the module. We spent his lunch hour for the next three days working on it. He perfected the module and our company was so impressed with his dedication to learning that they are now trying to find room to hire him on a full time, permanent basis."
"Recently, I trained our new A/P clerk on the Salesforce CRM as well as our accounting software. She caught on quickly, and I made sure to let her know that I was available for questions anytime."
"I have taught many individuals on the job, as it's always been a part of my leadership role to mentor and train new and existing employees."
"I'm proud to say that, even without any official management capacity, I often seize the opportunity to teach others at work. Not only have I helped contribute to the sales team's knowledge base, even from a marketing role, but also I try to make new hires or curious parties under my wing to teach them anything from SEO to segmenting email lists, or how to use different software. It's fun to share and teach others, especially since I am always seeking out learning opportunities for myself, so it's nice to give back or pay it forward."
"I was a corporate trainer before being promoted to national retail manager, so I got to train quite a few employees on policies, procedures, and processes. I had some great teaching methods that included quizzes and hands-on learning opportunities."
"Absolutely! In each of my two previous roles, I led a small team. I have worked on everything from appointment setting and overcoming objections to price negotiations with those respective teams. What's more, I always look for an opportunity to connect with the new folks to the team to ensure them that I can be a resource to them."
"We had a new teacher come on board this year which I took under my wing. I taught her a lot about the school's history, the culture among the faculty, and introduced her to the community. It felt great to help her settle in."
Interviewers understand that leaders will have a failed efforts now and then. What they want to know is that you can recognize those failures, learn from them, and enthusiastically move on. Think about a time when your leadership plan didn't go as desired. Be sure to tell the interviewer what you learned from the scenario as well as what you would do the next time.
"When I first joined my current company, I had big plans to overhaul the existing sales team and send them on a business development workshop weekend. Most of the employees ended up quitting because they didn't understand what this growth opportunity would have allowed them. Looking back, what I should have done was build the stronger rapport with my new team before sending them to a weekend workshop. They felt it was a punishment of some sort which wasn't the case at all. I learned my lesson, hired some stellar sales staff, and forged ahead! My new team ended up gaining strong momentum and finished the year 124% above budget."
"I took control of our company's most recent hiring fair, in the absence of our HR Manager, as she was on maternity leave. It was not as successful as previous hiring fairs and, despite my best efforts, I didn't see the results that I was hoping. I will continue to learn the recruiting field and won't give up despite this disappointment."
"We had a last minute order come through from a customer, but our material planner/production scheduling manager was out sick. I tried to get everything planned correctly for her, but we ended up having to do an unplanned changeover because we ran out of a part that was needed to continue. She was slightly mad at me, but she loves me overall so it will be alright."
"I took charge of migrating our mail service provider to a new, much better one. However, in the process, we ultimately lost one of our mailing lists in the migration. Apparently, this was a huge problem and disappointment, but it taught me to always back everything up and move extra carefully, even on a tight deadline. Luckily, the mailing list was on the backend of our website, so I was able to recover the list. Also, it gave me an opportunity to become more familiar with the backend of our site, so there were more lessons learned than figurative tears shed."
"I asked to take charge of our spring merchandising display. Underestimating how challenging the job is, it was a bit of a flop. My boss was nice about it, and we worked together to make it better. We now hire out the task to a professional merchandiser."
"The 'lunch and learns' that I created were effective the first few times, and then flopped. The team morale was so low that it became apparent that everyone needed to use their lunch breaks to disconnect from work so they could be more impactful overall. Looking back, I would have scheduled them every month rather than each week to avoid this type of burnout."
"I took charge of planning a 3-day camping trip for our high school seniors. I truly underestimated the scope of work and planning. Quickly falling behind, I recognized that I bit off more than I could chew and ended up recruiting another teacher to help me plan the trip."
The interviewer wants to know that you are aware of the need to always lead by example. Your answer should be, 'All the time!' As a leader, your actions, decisions, and demeanor are always under some form of scrutiny. The most stressful workplace situations often surround change, so it's a great idea to talk about a time when your organization went through a significant transition. A transition can be very challenging for some people. Discuss how you accept change with a positive attitude. Perhaps a new software system was being implemented. Maybe your company was being acquired. Perhaps a change occurred in your senior leadership. Talk about how quickly your team could have leaned towards negativity by becoming unmotivated or acting fearful of the change. Highlight that you have genuine excitement surrounding the possibilities that come with change and that this excitement rubs off on your team.
"I lead by example every moment of every day! My sales team keeps a close eye on my actions and, in our industry, it is very easy to over-dramatize situations. Last year our company merged with a competitor, and there was the talk of pending layoffs. Rather than show my stress, I encouraged my team to try harder than ever. I suggested that we show our corporate office exactly what we can do! We ended up being the number one sales team in our region which resulted in zero layoffs for our team."
"In my current role, I manage a front desk with a great deal of foot traffic. I choose always to have a smile on my face, make eye contact, and show my excitement for the company for which I work. There are always eyes on me, and I need to lead with positivity."
"I was a plant manager for Company XYZ when they announced they were closing their doors. By not allowing myself to display frustration, I was able to retain 89% of my staff during the transition. I feel that my positive attitude helped others to feel hopeful."
"I think you're always showing who you are and either demonstrating your leadership qualities or lack thereof. That's why I believe it's so important always to act as though someone is watching. As a parent, that's something that is always a possibility, and in the workplace, it's just as important to be on your best behavior. You never know who is watching or listening and you can either make or break your career with your actions."
"I often lead by example when it comes to mandatory overtime. I work in an order-driven environment and sometimes we have to work late to get the job done. I don't let my peers see me get upset at last minute announcements."
"I believe I am always leading by example. For instance, I am either on time (ideally early), dressed for the part (or better), and prepared, or you're not. One critical moment when my leadership capabilities are displayed is in meetings. I am attentive and ready to participate."
"These days, students come to class with their phones and are either scrolling through text, or at the minimum, they're out on the table. I prefer to put my phone away and have a notebook and pen out instead. This way, it's clear that I'm on task. No one knows what you're doing on your phone- it could be 100% work related, but it looks like you're texting. I teach my students to remain engaged."
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