Are Questions The Key To Becoming A Better Manager?

The best managers know how to ask questions that make people think
The best managers know how to ask questions that make people think
Image Credit: Rolf Venema

We would all like to use our manager skills to be better managers. The big question that all of us deal with each and every day is just exactly what kind of manager training do we need to make this happen. It turns out that if we keep doing the things that we are doing right now, nothing is going to change. We will never become better. What we need to learn how to do is to change things up and do things differently. One of the most powerful tools that a manager has is the questions that we ask the members of our team. However, if we keep asking them the same questions, then we’ll just get the same answers. In order to become a better manager, we need to learn how to ask better questions.

Ask Questions To Spark Creative Thinking

The best kind of questions that a manager can ask the members of his or her team are the ones that allow the barriers to creative thinking to come down and allow the team member to create productive answers. It turns out that the questions that meet this criteria have five different criteria. They reframe the problem. They intrigue the team member’s imagination. It invites the team member to think. It opens up space to allow more answers to be considered. Finally, it’s nonaggressive and does not humiliate, embarrass or try to assert power.

Make Asking Questions A Habit

How used to asking questions are you? As managers, most of us are more used to giving answers than asking questions – we like to look like we know what we are doing. One way to get better at asking questions is by copying the way that other people ask questions. One way to go about doing this is to ask people about changes that have recently happened and what their impact is. Another approach is instead of asking the same old questions about how things can be done better, get more specific. Ask questions about how things can be make better at very specific points in the process. This can lead to more questions about things that are both big and small.

Take The Time To Generate New Questions

One of the biggest problems with questions that we all face is that it is too easy to get stuck in a rut and keep asking the same questions over and over again. If you keep asking the same questions, then the answers that you get will just reinforce today’s assumptions. What you want to do is to generate new and interesting questions. One thing that you can do is to take the time to notice something that has changed in your work environment. Don’t comment on it, instead take a moment and create a question based on the questions that this change raises.

Know How To Use A Pause

We all like to hear ourselves speak. However, when it comes to using questions to become a better manager sometimes it’s better if we don’t speak. When somebody comes to you with a challenge that they are facing do not just give them a quick answer. As managers this may turn out to be very difficult to do! Instead, respond to their issue with a question. Use this question to get more information out of the person who is facing the challenge. By doing this you will teach your team member to pause before doing something and get the question right while at the same time their answer will probably be better than any answer you would have given them.

Use Brainstorming To Create Questions

Managers know that there will be times when we run into a brick wall. Our teams will be at an impasse – you know that there must be a solution to a problem that you are dealing with, but you just don’t seem to be able to find it. When this happens a good idea is to pull your team together. Take four minutes to create nothing but questions about the issue that you are currently dealing with. Think about this as being like team building. Don’t waste any time trying to answer these questions – just create questions. This is a high-volume, no editing activity. Your goal should be to create 15-20 questions in this time. The result of this should be that you are provided with a new angle that you can use to try to solve your problem.

Provide Your Listeners With Rewards

As a manager you always have to be willing to listen to questions that are bought up by other people. When you think that you have something wrapped up and all of the questions have been both asked and answered, you need to be willing to listen to that last person who speaks up with one more question. The reason that this is so important is because this final question might be the one that derails the plan that you have come up with or it might point in the direction that you really should be traveling. Take the time to listen to everyone.

What All Of This Means For You

In order to become better managers we need to become better at asking questions. By learning how to ask good questions we can change the way that things are. Our questions can cause the members of our team to start to think about things in a different way and can open new doors to new solutions. However, before we can do this, we need to master the art of asking the good question.

The best kind of questions that we can ask are the ones that spark creative thinking in our teams. These questions meet five different criteria and they cause the members of our team to start to think about things differently. Asking good questions is a habit that we need to develop. We can get better at asking questions by copying how other people ask questions. In order to have the questions to ask, we need to make ourselves generate new questions. Do this by keeping your eyes open and noticing when things change. When team members come to you with a problem, don’t answer with a solution. Instead, ask them a question and have them come up with their own solutions. If you and your team get stumped, take the time to brainstorm questions and this can lead to new ways to tackle the problem. Always listen to people who have more questions for you – their questions may be the ones that will lead the way to a new solution.

In order to become a better manager, we are willing to do just about anything. What’s great about asking more and better questions is that it is very easy for us to do. This is a skill that we can practice every day in order to become better. Once we have become skilled at asking good questions, we’ll be able to solve problems quicker and better.

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that you should ever respond with a solution instead of a question?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

It does not happen all the time. However, sometimes a manager will be successful. Something that we attempt will happen the way that we wanted it to or we might just get lucky and a success will drop into our laps. However, the problem with being successful is that sometimes this can be a big problem in helping us to grow and develop. What managers need to do is to find ways to use their manager skills learn from their success. How should managers deal with success?