Coaching Leadership


As with all things, interviewing is a skill that you can improve upon with practice and focus. A major focus of the people running the interview is to determine if you will be able to do the job. It’s your goal to convince them that you can.

A powerful way to do this is to find examples of times that you used the skills or capabilities that the interviewers care about, and to communicate them in a tightly focused way.

You need to do this whether interviewers are using highly structured competency based questioning, or if they are just freewheeling around various areas of interest.

The model that you can use is called ‘STAR’:

  • Situation – What was the scenario you were in? People involved, deadlines, risks and opportunities etc.
  • Task – What were you tasked to do. This is the last time you can say “we”
  • Action – What did you do. Get specific here, this is the key point of the narrative
  • Result – What was the outcome of your actions, how did they achieve the task and why was your specific contribution important?

There’s often a follow-up question regarding what you learnt or what you’d do differently next time. This is also given significant weighting in the assessment, so make sure to have an answer here.

For any given role, there are probably fewer than 10 core competencies that interviewers will ask for. In a leadership role that might be things like:

  • How you bring people together to complete a project
  • How you inspire your group
  • How you deal with difficult situations
  • How you make tough decisions
  • How you coach or mentor more junior people
  • How you encourage innovation and improvement

For each of these likely competencies, think about a strong example of showing those skills, ideally at levels pushing at the edge or beyond your current role.

Write them down, practice saying them out loud. Get your situation and task outline down to less than a minute. Research the particular common competency areas that align to your role, and make sure your actions tie to the positive indicators of that role.

Build up a bank of these answers that you can bring to bear during an interview. Many of the questions you will be asked will looking at similar skills, so pick something from your list that’s close match, and go with it.

Prepare for these structured sections, practice your answers and you’ll be nailing any interviews you take part in.


Intro to Coaching

I’ve recently been giving an “Intro to Coaching” workshop to current and aspiring People Managers. It’s a great way to focus down on what’s really important, and to figure out ways of sharing that with people in a compelling and engaging way.

I start off by breaking down some of the theory of coaching for performance, what it is, and also what it isn’t. Then we move on to some tools and techniques that you can apply in a coaching situation. Finally, we look at how you can apply them in the management context, in the few minutes here and there which are often all we have to spare in the busy day-to-day.

This is a forty-five minute blast of content, it sets some groundwork and gives ideas for future practice.

For the rest of the workshop, we break into small groups and practice applying the techniques and tools we’ve just learnt. This practical session is by far the most valuable time. Once you have the tools, then using them is the only way to get good. This is as true of coaching as anything else.

In the practical session, we have a coach and a coachee, and a supervisor watching to provide feedback. After a ten minute session, the supervisor provides feedback and the coach reflects on what went well and what could’ve gone better. Once this is done, the group swap roles and go again.

I’ve had great feedback from a wide range of people, from those who’ve benefited from a concentrated refresher, to those who’ve encountered these ideas formally for the first time and to managers who have never reflected on their approaches before, and learnt so much in the process.

For me, sharing these approaches with more people is incredibly rewarding. It sharpens my own thinking and practice, whilst giving so many people a great grounding in the world of coaching and a springboard to the start of their journey.