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Productive Working Relationships, The ILS and Interview Questions; Here's One Little Word to Avoid..

“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” is an old adage that sums up synergy, a fancy word for working together. It’s a useful way of thinking about the third capability in the Integrated Leadership System; Supports and Cultivates Productive Working Relationships.

In my first and second articles on the subject of the ILS, I explained how the capabilities of Strategic Thinking and Achieving results can be interpreted as interview questions in the Australian Public Service. Planning, organising, and delivering outcomes against the agencies’ strategic objectives are standards here. They are about why and how you do things; and the third capability focuses on who you do them with.

Questions about productive working relationships often focus on how you interact with;

· Teammates

· Clients

· Internal and external Stakeholders

· Your staff

· Other government agencies.

One of the biggest mistakes candidates make when answering behavioural interview questions about teamwork is overuse of the word “we”. I know; there is no “I” in team…Behavioural interview questions are designed to illicit evidence of actions that demonstrate a competency, or behavioural indicators. Let’s say you ask me how my family spent the weekend, and I answered we did housework, laundry, went grocery shopping, cleaned the garage, and watched movies. That answer doesn’t say who did what. It’s entirely possible that all I did was watch movies. In an interview, you need to demonstrate competency by stating how the tasks were distributed; I did the housework, my daughter did the laundry, my husband cleaned the garage, we all went shopping together and we all watched the movies. Now you know what competency I have; and can see how I contribute when working with others.

Saying who-did-what is key to assuring you answer according to your level. For instance, you could ask a candidate at almost any level of the APS a question such as “Tell me about a time you worked effectively as a member of team”. An APS 3 might describe delivering part of project alongside colleagues, checking in regularly with a supervisor. An EL 2 could describe discussing the strategy with senior executive colleagues, engaging stakeholders with shared agendas, delegating and overseeing work whilst keeping in mind the expertise of her team, their individual needs and opportunities for development.

Continuous improvement in the form of learning is important in this capacity. We want to see employees at all levels sharing learning and supporting each other. For managers, seeking opportunities to build capacity is key.

Strong teams are made up of members with diverse skills, perspectives and ideas. Valuing individual differences and being sensitive to individual needs means that a team can continually cross pollinate whilst remaining open and accepting of individuals. How do you find out what ideas people have? Ask questions. Listen to the answers and be prepared to take new ideas on board. This capability uses words like cultivate, nurture, and support. The appreciation of individuals and sensitivity to their needs are the foundation for building strong teams and enabling synergy.

For more big ideas about preparing for interviews in the Australian Public Service, check out more of my blog posts. Or give me a ring; I’d love to work synergistically with you to help you move forward in your career!



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