The best managers spend more time listening and asking questions than they do talking and giving answers. Are you asking your people the right questions? Take this multiple-choice quiz and find out:
1. Alan tells you that he's sorry he didn't produce the report on time — again. You ask him:
A. "Are you having some problems I should know about?"
B. "Are there ways we could do the report differently that would help?"
C. "Should I ask somebody else to do this task instead?"
2. Betsy and Crystal come to complain that Danielle isn't pulling her weight on the Zim project. You ask them:
A. "Can you give me some examples of tasks Danielle has failed to complete?"
B. "What do you want me to do about it?"
C. "Should I try to find someone else to work with you on this project?"
3. Eric tells you that "You just want to make me look bad" when you correct one of his mistakes. You ask him:
A. "What makes you think that?"
B. "Why do you think I want you to look bad?"
C. "How would I make you look bad?"
4. Jackie and Laura blame each other for not ordering much-needed supplies. You ask them:
A. "Which one of you is telling the truth?"
B. "How can we avoid problems like this in the future?"
C. "Can the two of you work together on supply orders from now on?"
5. Hank asks to take off his third personal day in as many weeks. You ask him:
A. "Why do you need so much time off?"
B. "What should I tell other team members when they want to take leave?"
C. "How do you suggest we plan to get your projects done in your absence?"
What do your answers mean?
1. B is the best question to ask first when you're presented with a recurring performance problem. If Alan can't offer any suggestions, then follow with A. You should never ask a question like C — that's for you to decide.
2. Ask A first whenever employees come to you with complaints about other workers' performance. Then ask B, but don't make any commitments to specific action until you've talked with Danielle. Again, C is for you to decide.
3. C is the best question to ask first, so that you can better understand where Eric's coming from. Then ask B. You already know the answer to A — it's because you corrected his mistake. The issue is whether he should feel that way, not whether he does.
4. B is the best question to ask when both workers are present. Never ask an employee to admit to wrongdoing in front of fellow employees, which is what A does. Ask C if you don't get a workable response to B.
5. C is the most important question to ask. A is too close for comfort to prying, even if your concern is genuine. B is not Hank's concern, and asking this question sounds like an attempt to inspire guilt.