Ask Better Questions, Get Better Engagement

Never ASSUME, because when you ASSUME, you make an ASS of U and ME.

This catch-phrase was popularized by writer Jerry Belson in the 1970s sitcom The Odd Couple, and its message is truer today than ever before. In a world that demands instant answers and has little patience for the Socratic method, asking good questions is becoming a lost art.

Rushing to judgment or jumping to conclusions is a disaster waiting to happen. When subordinates are afraid to ask their managers questions, they usually wind up making the wrong decisions and waste valuable time. When managers assume why an employee made a bad decision, they miss a great opportunity to model leadership. Teachable moments are the best way to build trust and groom future leaders.

Here’s another example – your best clients are ones with whom you’ve built a relationship. These clients are the most likely to refer your services to their friends because they feel like you take care of them. And how do you take good care of your clients? Frequent contact, good work and asking the right questions. After all, how can you uncover issues and anticipate their needs if you don’t take the time to know them well?

Asking questions is not a magic formula, but there is a little magic that happens when it’s executed properly. As a manager, it’s important to ensure your team is not only reaching their goals but is getting better at executing their goals. Here are 10 questions to help you have more meaningful and insightful conversations.

  • What did you do?
  • How did you do it?
  • What steps did you take?
  • Why did you choose to do it this way?
  • Let me see what you’ve got so far.
  • What are you going to do next?
  • How are you going to do it?
  • How could we leverage this to better serve our clients?
  • What are the trends you see?
  • Is this the right focus?
  • How can I help you?

These questions are not meant to be read as if from a playbook. These are ideas to get your juices flowing about how you can manage (not micromanage) your team to excellence. Always approach these conversations with an open mind and curiosity. If course correction becomes a habit with some employees, it may be time to have a different kind of conversation. See our article on Stay Interviews to get some ideas on how to assess whether or not your employees are still in it to win it. Sometimes a lack of enthusiasm or repeated errors are a sign that there are deeper issues that need to be explored.

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