There is no “I” in team, but there is sometimes an “I” in “fail.” When you work as a leader or manager, you’re going to find that every once in a while, you make a mistake that has serious consequences. This may be because you were depending on other people who may have let you down or you may have just made a bad judgement call. You’re also not going to always give the right tasks to the right people, nor are you going to manage them all correctly.
Employers understand this, but they also want to know that you can learn from your mistakes. They want someone that isn’t overwhelmed by pride, and someone with experience taking on a variety of challenges. That’s why they may ask you the following delegation interview question.
Behavioral Interview Question: Tell me about a time when you delegated a task or work that was not successful. What would you do differently next time?
As is often the case when you’re asked about coworkers – especially those that you guide yourself, such as your subordinates – it’s very important to limit your answers to those that:
- Don’t say bad things about the staff member.
- Don’t say bad things about yourself.
That is obviously limiting. That’s why you should focus on things that are universally understood – a person quitting, making a mistake with an email – things that make neither of you look that bad. Then follow them up with what you’ve learned.
“One of my best examples of this was when I was handing out assignments for the software upgrade. I handed out assignments to each IT staff member, including those who would handle UI, those who would handle coding, etc. We had a newer person on staff and I handed them coding task X…
Unfortunately, I forgot to ask them if they knew how to do the coding, and at the time they were so new that they were too afraid to say anything. After a few days when I checked in, the employee was practically in tears, and nothing had yet been accomplished. I realised my mistake immediately. I should have followed up with everyone regarding their confidence to complete their tasks especially a new employee whose strengths I did not know as yet. I apologised and switched their tasks with another and we were still able to finish the upgrade in time. As a results of that project, I now make sure I check everyone is comfortable with their tasks at the beginning of each project and adjust the tasks as necessary to ensure this sort of thing does not come up again. It has also made me much more aware of each persons development needs, which can be better taken into account at the onset of any project. ”
Employers will recognize that this error makes a lot of sense – the person was new, you had made a bad assumption, etc.. We all do that. The most important part of their answer was that you realized it, you learned from it and you became a better manager because of it. That the project ended up going well is a bonus.