What Is A Manager’s Secret To Being Emotionally Intelligent?

It turns out that managers can become more likable if we learn how to ask questions
It turns out that managers can become more likable if we learn how to ask questions
Image Credit: Aritra Sen

As managers, we are under a great deal of pressure to use our manager skills to find ways to get the most out of our teams. We can try a lot of different techniques; however, all too often we get the same results – nothing changes. The good news for us is that it turns out that if we want to create more open relationships with the members of our team all we have to do is to learn how to ask questions the right way. How hard can that be to do correctly?

Learning How To Ask Questions

I think that we all understand that as managers, we need to know how to ask the people on our teams questions. The problem that we run into is that learning how to ask questions is not something that most managers learn in manager training. The reason that this is something that is important for us to learn how to do is because it’s critical to shift the focus of the conversation onto the other person in order to build rapport and the transparency needed to make the relationship an effective one.

Since we are going to be managing team members for a period of time that can run for years, the question that we need to be able to answer is how to use questions in cases where a longer-term relationship is the objective. How we can best ask questions that illustrate empathy sincerely is not something we necessarily practice every day, and if we do, we may still be going about it in the wrong way. What this means is that this is something that we are all going to have to work at.

It’s All About The Follow-Up Questions

As I suspect that we all know, there are a lot of different types of questions. We ask questions to get things started, to find out how someone is doing, and also to get more information. The ones that we ask to get more information as a part of team building are the most important. The reason that these are the most important for you to be asking is because they signal an interest in the person you are talking to.

Managers need to realize that it turns out that the opposite is also true. If we ignore follow-up questions and simply stick to an agenda of pre-scripted questions, the conversation that we are having turns into an inquisition or an awkward exchange. The reason that we ask these questions is because when someone answers a question they are often opening the door a little wider and with a little luck they will be revealing information that they want to share more of with us.

Open Ended Questions Are Always Better

If you have every practiced to interview a candidate, you know that we are all told to ask open-ended questions so that we can draw more information out of the person that we are interviewing. The reason that we ask questions like this is because they result in richer and more revealing answers. What we don’t want to be doing is to be asking questions that are subtly trying to drive to an already anticipated conclusion with the use of closed-ended questions. When you ask a question stop, wait, and allow the person to digest and respond. Don’t try to just fill the silence or move away from what appears to be a dead end.

The Sequence That You Ask Your Questions In Matters

As managers we need to understand that just asking questions is not enough. It turns out that the order in which we ask our questions also matters. The order of questions has a significant effect on how people respond. A good example of this is if you are trying to gain insight and just getting information is the objective, then starting with the toughest question first is the preferred method. This is because if you start with a really tough question the rest will seem less invasive to the person that you are talking with. However, if you are trying to build a relationship with the person that you are talking with then the opposite is true. We need to use our questions to build up to intimacy, trust, and transparency.

Questions Must Be Asked In The Right Tone

The words that you use to ask a question are not the only important part of the questions that you will be asking. It turns out that the tone that you use to ask your questions plays a critical role. People are more forthcoming when you ask questions in a casual way, rather than in an official tone. The impact of tone is actually much larger than most of us understand. It applies across the board to all sorts of communication, even online questions and surveys.

What All Of This Means For You

All of us use questions in our everyday conversation anyway. However, it turns out that we need to become aware of the power that questions can have in helping us to develop better relationships with the people on our teams. If you made an effort to keep track of what you’re asking, how you’re asking it, and the degree to which you’re actually following the guidelines that we’ve discussed, you might be amazed at how often you stray from them.

Everybody on your team wants the same thing. We all want to feel someone is interested in us. We all want to share that which we feel is uniquely us – the things that makes us believe that we are valuable people. We all want to connect with people who are trustworthy, and we want others to see us as being trustworthy. In a word, everyone wants their manager to ask them the right questions. It really is that simple; don’t complicate it.

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

Question For You: Do you think that it is possible to ask someone on your team too many questions?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

There has been a great deal of coverage in the papers and on television about sexual harassment in the workplace. Male managers have been struggling to find ways to use our manager skills to deal with these claims and, of course, how to prevent them from happening in the first place. Managers just don’t seem to know what the appropriate response is – we’ve never had any manager training on what to do. What managers need to understand is what we should NOT do when someone comes to us with an allegation of sexual harassment.