As leaders, when we talk, we like to use sentences that end in periods. What if we became experts at ending sentences with question marks?
In the shift from demand leadership to empowerment leadership, here are 10 questions that will enable your team to perform their jobs more effectively without telling them exactly what to do. And in fact, you will likely notice more innovative solutions, higher morale, and a stronger work ethic.
1 – What do you need from me? Direct, to the point. This simple question fosters clear lines of communication, clarifies priorities and displays a genuine concern for your team members and their responsibilities.
2 – Who else should know about this? My hunch is that internal communication isn’t perfect and key departments aren’t aware of important issues in your world. This question brings to light who should also be informed about a specific topic.
3 – Why don’t you talk to them directly? As a leader, if a culture of gossip and office politics has taken root, this question pushes your team to deal with tough stuff on their own and without your direct intervention. Of course you’ll need to be the referee from time to time, but you shouldn’t always be the default peacekeeper.
4 – Before I look at this, is it client ready? Many times, as leaders, we end up doing things our own way (documents, presentations, contracts, etc.). We have the mindset that says it’s easier or faster to do the job ourselves. What would change if we enabled our team, gave them the appropriate tools and information and had them take ownership of these processes? By asking if documents are client ready, we’ll also free our team to put their best work into things the first time.
5 – Am I giving you the clarity you need? Personally, I can really struggle with being crystal clear. Give your team the permission to tell you that your direction isn’t clear. Simplify, put things in writing and be clear. Very clear.
6 – Do you really need me on this? You should be ruthlessly fighting to free time for you and your team. If you’re not needed on an initial phone call or an internal meeting for example, give your team the responsibility to guard your time wisely. They’ll do that with their own as well if you model it for them.
7 – What do I need to know? This could be about an upcoming meeting, a sales presentation, a charity event, or simply a casual check in on team morale. Transfer ownership to your team and allow them to be your eyes and ears when you’re not around. Encourage honest, direct feedback on things you need to be aware of because if they don’t tell you, you’re likely not going to hear about it until it’s too late.
8 – Please forgive me? A tough, awkward question in business. However, if you blow it, ask your team if they’ll forgive you. This one question will drive more loyalty than you can imagine.
9 – How can I help? Although this may seem like question number one, it communicates something completely different. You are offering to give answers and information when you ask the question, “What do you need from me?”. But “How can I help?” translates into you rolling up your sleeves and doing the hard work together.
10 – When will you have this ready? Instead of randomly assigning deadlines to key projects, give your team the ownership to set their own key date. Of course, if that doesn’t meet company needs, then alter it. More times than not, your team will respond with a date prior to what you had in mind. And they’ll do a better job because they’ll be motivated and held accountable by their own choice.
I know there are many more fantastic questions, but I’m hopeful a few of these resonate with you today.