What type of questions are you asking your team members?
Different situations require different types of questions. As a Manager of a team, you want to enable and support frequent, open communication in your team. To do so, you need to ask questions frequently but more importantly, you need to ask different types of questions based on the situation.
Start to pay attention to the type of questions you are asking. Ask the right type of questions and empower your team to get better at problem-solving, grow in their roles and drive bigger business impact.
Ask open-ended questions. Open-ended questions lead to a conversation because they cannot be answered with a simple yes or no. These types of questions prompt deeper thinking and usually begin with a “why”, “what happened” “how” and “what if”.
Tip: Open Questions are great, but watch out for tangential answers. You need to know when to rein it in.
Don’t ask “Will this impact our customers?”
Instead ask “What impact does this have on our customers, on the business, and on our team?”
Don’t ask “Are you making progress on your goals?”
Instead, ask “What activities have you done in the last 30 days towards your goals, and how have they helped you progress?”
Deep Dive Questions
I learned the importance of this type of questioning during my time at Amazon. “Dive Deep” is one of Amazon’s Leadership Principles. “Trust yet verify” is a mental model at Amazon.
As a leader, you need to use a Deep Dive type of questions to get to the bottom of the issue. The idea here isn’t to pin blame or find a scapegoat. Instead, it is to get to the root of the problem quickly. Use this type of question for recurring problems that are moderately difficult.
For example, when you see repeat bugs in one part of the codebase, instead of just applying patch fixes as a bandaid, go deeper and find the root cause.
Managers typically believe they need to have all the answers. Right? Wrong. To be an effective Manager, you don’t need to have all the answers. You don’t need to be the smartest person in the room. You just need to ask questions and focus on earnestly listening to what your team members are saying.
In his best-selling book, “The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way Your Lead Forever” Michael Bunger Stainer reinforces how asking seven coaching questions makes you a better Manager.
Don’t ask for project status in your 1:1s.
Instead, ask “What’s on your mind? What would you like to discuss today?”
Don’t ask “How was last week’s oncall?”
Instead, ask “What about last week’s oncall concerns you? What are some things we may be overlooking?”
It may seem to you that offering advice straightaway or providing the answer is the quickest way to help your direct. But instead, ask coaching questions to help your directs think through the issue and arrive at the solution by themself. By doing this you will empower their growth and enable them to build problem-solving skills.
“I would rather have questions that can’t be answered than answers that can’t be questioned.”― Richard Feynman
Some DON’Ts To Remember
Don’t ask leading questions
Don’t make assumptions
Don’t ask vague, meaningless questions
Don’t ask questions just to sound smart
- Don’t forget to listen intently
- Don’t ignore follow-up