Do you ask Good Questions?

Learning to ask good questions is a finely tuned skill that great managers and leaders will master. We started to talk about this a little bit last time… sometimes questions are staged, or otherwise welcomed versus asked outright: Who gives you your Second Opinion?).

Questions are sort of like picture frames: There is a vast array of different ones, and though the painting stays the same once the paint has dried and set completely, the painting can look completely different to you depending which frame you put it in —or if you use one at all.

Or just paint it

Good questions come from good intention

Once you ask a question, the words which ‘paint’ it are said. But how did you frame them, and why?

For example, I have three favorite questions for managers and leaders I interview in coaching assessments before we embark on Managing with Aloha programs (Frame 1). These are also great as questions for the managers you are thinking about hiring, if you share similar values (Frame 2 ”“ I’ll put the Hawaiian values in parentheses):

  1. What’s your calling? (Ho‘ohana as the value of intentional work)
  2. How do you learn? (‘Ike loa as the value of lifelong learning)
  3. What kind of things will you methodically plan? (‘Imi ola as the value of created destiny)

My purpose for those questions is that I choose my customers; I coach people who I believe are ready to go from good to great. It’s more challenging and fun for me, and it’s more useful and joyous for them. Not only do their values tell me what they believe in, they tell me what they are ready for. Within my coaching programs, the values of Ho‘ohana, ‘Ike loa and ‘Imi ola collectively fortify what I consider to be ‘good to great’ readiness in the Alaka‘i framing of the Managing with Aloha way that great managers work.

Thus Frame 2: I am assuming those are the same kind of people that you hire as Alaka‘i managers, right? If you share the value framing of Alaka‘i, you likely believe, as I do, that

  1. Management is a calling, not a title on an org chart.
  2. Managers and leaders are lifelong learners; learning is the good food and nutrition necessary for their growth. No growth, no leadership potential.
  3. The great managers are diligent planners; they are obsessed with lining up those mission arrows which point to the leadership visions they champion.

I think of good questions are those which have noble purpose: They catch people in what they are doing right, and can further build upon; thus they align with my own intention to coach. Good questions do not have that “what do you think you are doing?” tone to them: They are not those Aha! Caught you doing something wrong! questions which embarrass or demoralize people, and get them to shrink when they struggle to answer.

My job as a coach (and yours as an Alaka‘i boss and mentor) is to help them make their weaknesses irrelevant, and I much prefer to do so by keeping my focus diligently (i.e. intentionally) leveled on their strengths instead.

Choose a frame for your painting

Try it. Choose three values you want your managers to have.
(Here are some Hawaiian value suggestions if you would like to use them: Hau‘oli Makahiki Hou: Hawaiian Values for 2009)

Next, write a belief statement for each of those three values: Why is it important to you that each manager on your team embody those beliefs as well? ”If they do, they align with your purpose and thus fortify your organizational culture instead of fragmenting it with a different belief system (which would be a different framing).

Third, turn your belief into a good question of noble purpose: Frame it as a question which quickly tells you if a prospective candidate shares your managerial values or not. If they don’t, they aren’t bad people, they simply are not a fit for your organizational culture, and they need to keep looking for their better match ”“ and you need to keep looking for yours.

Frame 3: Your questions may also work for that long-term manager sitting in their annual performance appraisal with you, if both of you are looking for how past loyalty and comfort can now make the leap to new stretch and a greater leadership challenge.

By the way, if you happen to be looking for a new job right now, you have just identified the three values that you should be looking for in your new boss-to-be. (Frame 4) Remember, there are two decisions to be made in every hiring situation.

Let’s talk story.

  • Do you have good questions to share with us which are among your favorites?
  • What did you come up with as a value and question match-up in this exercise?

Comment here, or via the tweet-conversation we have on Twitter @sayalakai.



More reading from the Say “Alaka‘i” archives:
Alaka‘i Archive Love: February 2009 Update


~ Originally published on Say “Alaka‘i” ~
Do you ask Good Questions?


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