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The importance of asking questions

February 13, 2018

Team Management

Managing a team is about bringing a unique skill set to the table. Its about leadership.

And we know that good leaders listen. Nobody wants to work for a manager who doesn’t listen, or worse, a manager who just won’t listen.

For team players to feel motivated and engaged, they need a manager who’ll listen to their feedback and act on their requests. Listening is everything. Its a major tool in every good manager’s armoury, and a truly positive force for productivity.

Essentially, management is about understanding. Understanding the issues, the challenges of a particular role or task, and the way forward to get through them. Its about understanding how the team works, how the dynamics affect each member, and how to help them collaborate for a common goal.

We can all ask questions of each other, that’s no problem. But being able to listen is a skill that depends not only on asking the right questions, but asking the right people at the right time, and in the right way.

We’re not talking about the straight laced, stuffed shirt questions of performance management, the sort of questions which can all too often just come across as an extension of the job interview. Managers need to use questions like a tool, and as we know, tools need to be used properly, they can be dangerous in the wrong hands.

How to ask, though?

Simplicity in everything. Ask with interest, and be genuinely interested in the answer. Keep it real, this is a human conversation, not an interview. Ask questions that allow an honest and open answer, not just the answer you want to hear. Ask humbly and be prepared for answers you might not like - this is an opportunity to learn, after all. Give the other person room in the conversation, let them make their point clearly and give them the time to do so. A team member who can interact with their manager in this frank and transparent way is more likely to feel engaged and motivated. Patience is everything, so hear them out.

Having said all that, managers need to ask themselves what they want to do with the information they’ve learned. It’d be a fairly pointless conversation if no changes came from it. Sometimes these conversations can lead to a decision that breaks new ground, disrupting the norm and brings genuine change for the better. Often, we can find ourselves too close to something to see the bigger picture, or to see the effect our decisions have on others around us.

Again, the ability to asking questions, absorbing and acting on the feedback we receive is a real skill.

When we go home from a long day in work, our partners might ask “How was your day?” We all know that all too often this becomes an opportunity to vent, to let off the steam of the working day. “This part of a project isn’t going well, that person’s slacking, there’s an IT problem, there’s too many distractions in the way for me to be able to do my job” We seize on this opportunity to get all this out, to release it, and its a powerful release, we feel better afterwards because someone’s listening. Sadly, unless our partner is also our boss, no change will come. We need to feel encouraged to speak up, to raise any issues and find solutions. We all need to be listened to, any we all need to feel that things may change as a result of the conversation. At the same time, managers want to hear about the positives, the plusses, the moments that went well, the results of where a particular project went well.

Wundamail distills all this down each day, into one simple question. What did you do today? Be honest. How would YOU answer that question?

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