What do you think?
I think the answer is probably both, however I’d still like to hear from you on it.
I am confident that both art and skill are things we all can learn.
I know that we can get better at asking really great questions when we’re at work.
Today, my Thursday article for Lifehack.org is called WorkHack: The Attitude of Q. & D. and I talk about a managing with aloha tool I coach managers in called Question & Dialogue.
Attitude is a tool. I’ve always thought of it that way, for tools perform and/or facilitate work, and the right tools make work easier. That’s certainly what a good attitude does.
Here’s a snippet of my article:
The best answers and the right answers can be elusive things in companies. One nagging reason for this is that best answers remain hidden behind the ones we’re too quick to settle for. They arrive in conversations with the culprits of “the way we’ve always done it,” “what the boss will probably want,” and “yeah, that’ll be good enough.” As managers, our job is to dig deeper, and to reveal all the options until we arrive at the best one.
At Hualalai I used to write a series of weekly emails called the ‘Ohana Mālama to help my managers create meaningful, work-productive dialogue with their staff every day at pre-shift. Much like our monthly Ho‘ohana here on Talking Story, there was a theme, but this one was weekly: they received it every Friday for the following week. Many of my managers would tell me these conversation starters ended up as the best help I gave them in both stimulating new thinking individually, and creating work initiative consistency with each department of the resort (we were a fairly large, departmentally diverse company).
Over time, we found that ‘soap-boxing’ in pre-shift meetings didn’t work: very easy for employees to tune you out and humor you. In fact, the underlying silent agreement between them would be ‘Don’t anyone ask a question or this will get dragged out even longer.’ Been there, have you?
On the other hand, having the manager ask great questions worked wonders; dialogue was lively and more interesting. Pre-shift was only 15 minutes long, and the conversations which started would flow into the rest of the workday: New ideas would be generated in real-time, immediate practice.
Here’s an example from a theme we called “No Room for Mediocrity.” Just for some context, Hualalai is a residential resort community with a Four Seasons Hotel. And on the wording, remember that this email went out to all managers to read, and then re-phrase in pre-shift using their own words framed in departmental context.
Daily ‘Ohana Mālama: Focus on the Customer
This week ”“ service questions to ask ourselves. Seek honest answers from your staff, and get them to help you with solutions. They have the answers you want!
Monday/ Tuesday ”“ What do our guests ask of us?
“Be Flexible.” They hate it when we say no, and are unwilling to bend the rules, or say “It’s our policy.” Can we be different and be more flexible? Do we need so many rules?
Question the rules you have in your operation ”“ Are they really necessary? If so, how can service be provided to take the perceived bite away?
Wednesday/ Thursday ”“ What do our guests ask of us?
“Make it easy.” To do business with us needs to be hassle-free. Can we build systems to eliminate the hassles?
Look closely: is it easy to call you? Is it easy to book a reservation, make an appointment? It is easy to “go shopping” ”“ no matter what the service that you provide in your department?
Friday/ Saturday ”“ What do our guests ask of us?
“Don’t nickel and dime us.” It already costs a pretty penny to stay here, whether a resident or a hotel guest, and they assume it’s a package deal ”“ they want a package deal. Are there inconsequential charges in our operations that bug our guests unnecessarily? Can we be more creative? Should we simply be more reasonable?
Sunday, or the last day of the cycle, after all employees had been engaged in the week’s project, was for wrap-up and capture of the best ideas that had been voiced and implemented effectively.
Todd Storch does a good variation of this with everyone in his Business Thoughts blog community, with his Monday Feature called “What If?” His question is a really terrific way to start a conversation asking for new, it’s okay to get crazy and dreamy kind of thinking.
Todd has asked questions such as:
#7 What if you spent an entire day away from your office, but you still worked?
#6 What if…you were a Super Bowl commercial armchair quarterback?
#5 What if you had to re-interview for your job?
#4 What if you were held accountable by 1-minute increments?
#3 What if you had 5 minutes to write out your best accomplishments?
#2 What if your best employee quit today?
#1 What if you still saw the world through children’s eyes?
What are some really great manager’s toolbox kind of questions you’ve used, or can suggest? What would you love to have your boss ask you?
Let’s play Jeopardy here ” “please phrase your response in the form of a question.”
Related Post: Let’s play Synergy: Ask me a question