Real leaders are empathetic, curious, confident and skilled listeners. They are constantly trying to learn and gain new insights and perspectives to improve both themselves and those they lead. Real leaders ask thought-provoking questions that necessitate real responses. They’re not interested in lip service from yes-men or yes-women. What questions do real leaders ask?
- What could you use to help you do a better job? This is a much better question than the typical “do you need anything?” Asking the latter is really like saying “What more could you possibly want?” Focusing the question on the result – a better job – produces a more valuable response.
- Talk with me about how we can improve our product/service. If you simply ask, “What can we do to improve?” you leave yourself open to those who don’t want to risk speaking up. You’re giving them the option of responding with a closed-ended reply – nothing. By beginning with the words “talk with me” you’re letting that person know you’re interested and you’re expecting a conversation rather than a one word response.
- What am I missing? The more common question asked is “Is there anything else?” Again, this is a closed-ended question that risks getting a “no” response. Asking “what am I missing” opens the door to various responses in addition to communicating that you’re not a know-it-all.
- Is it probable? What are the chances? These two questions can be interchanged. Imagine you’re making a decision that will alter your product or service in a way that you believe will yield positive results. Don’t ask your team what they think of the change. Instead ask them what the probability is that customer service improves if that change is made and why?
- What got you jazzed today? This should replace “how’s it going?”, or “how are you doing?”. Most employees wouldn’t dream of telling their boss how it’s going, nor would they be comfortable enough to open up about how they’re really doing. Asking for a specific event, gesture, or experience will provide insight into the work environment. If there is nothing jazz-worthy a real leader takes note and digs deeper to understand the difference between an uneventful day and a disengaged culture.
Try these out and see what you learn.