I’d like to know how you behave when you don’t understand something. Can you give me an example where you didn’t follow what was being discussed in a meeting and what behaviors you used to catch up? Can you give me an example where you thought you understood something, but didn’t, and you came to realize that and the behavior you used to understand it?
I believe effective managers — whether they’re managing a professional sports team, a big company or a small plumbing shop — are good at understanding what’s going on around them.
Ineffective managers are good at pretending to know. I’ve seen these managers use intimidating, bullying tactics as a defense mechanism to keep others from recognizing that the manager doesn’t understand. These managers seek leadership roles to satisfy their own ego and can wreck a place because they rarely get good answers. Sometimes they think they got their job because they’re the smartest person in the room, and they don’t want others to show them up. They develop perverted mental models of how things should work and take the business off course because they shut off feedback. (All problems can be traced to problem of feedback).
Effective managers don’t let their ego get in the way of understanding what’s really going on. If they’re in a meeting, they humbly ask for help. “I’m having a hard time understanding what you are talking about. Can I ask a few questions to see if I’m on the same page?”
As an example, consider how effective and ineffective managers may think about weight loss. Ineffective managers will continue to believe the myths that have made them fat. They believe they’re doing things right, but they’re not receiving the feedback sent by the scale, their clothes sizes, their doctor or the mirror. They don’t seem to want to accept that maybe the way they understand how weight loss works is incorrect and they should try something else.
An effective manager is open to the feedback. When they see needle on the scale creep up, or the belt expanding, they’re open to the idea that they’re doing something wrong and they seek help in understanding why that is.
If I’m hiring managers, I want effective managers. I think its very important to understand how the candidate will behave when they don’t understand something.