A good conversation starts with the right questions

Most of our requests come from managers. Regardless of the size of their company, managers often need help on how to give better feedback, how to create better teamwork, how to integrate team members with a different cultural background and how to develop a motivating vision.  Throughout all of this, one element keeps coming back : time and again we need to help managers to become better at asking questions instead of at giving answers.

We’d like to share some of these questions with you to help you make the most out of 4 types of conversations.

1. Motivation  : what’s your driving force?

What is a motivator for your ?
How would you like to contribute ?

Before you can even think about motivating your team members, you need to know what makes work fun and meaningful for them. Just ask them. It’s that simple.  Starting from that knowledge, you can determine together how they can contribute to the success of your team. 

2. Progress: a weekly conversation

What worked well this past week ? Why ?
What didn’t work out ? Why ?
What do you want to get done next week ?
What support do you need to accomplish that ? Where will you find this support ?
Can I help you with this or with anything else ?

It isn’t more complicated than that.  Like with a physical work-out : frequency is more efficient than duration. A short conversation of 15 minutes each week is more effective than a hour-long meeting once a month.  Most importantly : don’t forget the last question.

3. Change : making room for what’s new.

What do you want to stop doing ?
What do you want to continue doing ?
What do you want to start doing ?

The sequence of questions is important here : first you stop and create room, then you confirm what you definitely want to keep and only then you can choose what new activity you’d like to focus on. 

With these three questions you make sure your team members stop and think before they chose a (new) direction. This is how you put things in motion.

4. The evaluation dialogue : looking back and offering support.

What did you do well this past year?
What went less well ?
What do you hope to achieve next year?
Do you have everything you need to perform well ?
How did I help you ?
How did I hinder you ?
What / how would you like to develop further ?
How can I support you with this ?
Is there anything else you’d like to discuss ?

If you are planning an evaluation dialogue with your team members, you can give them this list of questions ahead of time so that they can prepare. They are questions, not judgements.

By asking explicitly how you have supported them and especially how you should have offered more support, you put yourself in a vulnerable position.  By answering sincerely to all these questions, your team members are exposing themselves as well.  This mutual vulnerability is the basis for every sincere conversation. 

This is but one page out of our free e-bookThe new Leadership. Leading after the Digital Revolution “. Each manager can find a wealth of information : new scientific insights, clear examples and practical tools to use in the era of the Digital Revolution. You can download your free copy of this practical handbook here.

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