Early in my career, I used to work in a retirement plan division of a large insurance company. Over my time there, I was asked to step into a Regional Team Leader position. And of all the field reps I was assigned to, I arguably had one of the most difficult of any other team leader.
This rep was, without a doubt, challenging. I think the biggest thing I struggled with was this person’s ability to take a problem and consistently work it to his solution through a raised voice or intimidation of others.
That was years ago and it still makes me cringe. No questions. Only statements. No consideration of other’s input. Only what he wanted. No nurturing of a relationship. Only bottom line.
Needless to say, God grew me in many ways as a leader and this field rep’s example to me pushed me hard in thinking what type of leader that I desired to be with others. Indeed, God uses all things in our life to help us look more like Jesus.
Questions are an amazing communication tool. Questions draw others in; they stir the conscience. They help us see the actual truth of a situation that may go against our preconceived assumptions. And yet as leaders, we often make more statements than the asking of questions and end up imposing our reality onto someone else’s situation.
Not good. And we end up living with a blind spot that is killing our ability to manage well.
The best means to solicit feedback
I read a thought-provoking article about asking questions of those you lead and would like to summarize 10 of those questions below. As you read through these, put yourself in the shoes of the employee being asked these questions, and ask yourself, “What would these do for me? Could they supercharge the culture of my setting?”
So here they are.
- What process do you think could be fixed or improved?
- What do you need help with this week or this month?
- Was there a recent meeting where you did not feel as if you were able to share your thoughts? Would you be willing to share them now?
- What is causing you frustration or delays in your work?
- Are you crystal clear on your role and what you are to be working on? If not, where can I provide clarity?
- Looking back on the project we just completed, what do you feel could have gone better?
- What is the most meaningful part of your job? Why?
- What about your work inspires you to succeed?
- We are thinking about making a hire in this area. What are your top five qualities that you think this hire needs to be able to succeed in our work culture?
- Where could I help you best grow in your position?
None of the questions above are new. None are that amazing in and of themselves. The power lies in that they are being used with others. If we are not careful in our leadership, it is easy to begin thinking that we are the answer to everyone’s fulfillment.
After all, we are the leader. But we all need this reality check at times because a slow drift can occur with any of us. We like control. We like being viewed favorably. But I love what this article says about our leaning more towards giving answers than asking questions.
When we focus more on answers than questions, we deprive everyone of an opportunity to grow. Relationships suffer, because nothing makes people feel more marginalized than telling them your impressions about their experiences, feelings, or motivations. But asking direct question about another’s experience allows them to feel more seen, heard, and fulfilled.
Questions simply give us a truthful measuring stick. And whether we are asking questions to paint a true reality or to resolve conflict, their value is the same: they create value for others. And you will find yourself in a team dynamic that you never knew could exist.
This is authentic leadership.