Berger Leadership Blog

Oct 17, 2014

To ask, or not to ask? Part 2

Question mark on keyboard

How do you imagine this exchange going between you (the boss) and an employee: “Why are you the way that you are? I hate so much about the things that you choose to be.”

Remember the TV show “The Office”? This is what Michael Scott (the boss) said to one of his team members. Since the show was a comedy, it was OK to laugh; of course, this is also a perfect example of a question that you and I should never ask an employee.

The Harvard Business Review blog gives a few more examples of what not to ask:

- “What’s the problem?” Try to give your questions a more positive spin, such as “How can we build off of what we already do well?”

- “Whose fault is it?” Don’t place blame or single people out; instead, ask how the team can better work together.

- “Why don’t you do it this way?” Try not to exert control and instead ask for your employees’ ideas.

- “Haven’t we tried this already?” Watch your tone when asking questions so you don’t already sound defeated.

Another blog post on Harvard Business Review states, “Questions focused on why a person did not or cannot succeed force subordinates to take a defensive or reactive stance and strip them of their power. Such questions shut down opportunities for success and do not allow people to clarify misunderstandings or achieve goals.”

Remember, your employees’ success is your success. As leaders, we should try to focus on leading by asking, not telling.

Last week, I discussed how asking the right questions can encourage your employees and help your organization succeed. In case you missed it, here it is.