By Jessica Hagy, Forbes
Functional leadership (at every level) means readily admitting that you don’t know everything. It means understanding that the more questions you ask, they more you’ll find out. And the more you find out, they more you (and your team) can accomplish. If you’re leading a group, mix these questions into your conversations, and you’ll get the information that’s key to both solving and preventing problems. You’ll also be seen as someone who really gets it, instead of someone who just gets in the way.
These are leading questions: questions leaders must ask. Listen to lead.
1. How can I help?
Ask this in person. Then do what you’re told needs to be done, even if it's difficult. Over email, this question rings hollow and you won’t get the answers that can help you do the most good.
2. What problem are we solving?
Asking this question helps focus energies and think bigger than the tasks at hand. It gives concrete direction to nebulous tasks, and save a lot of time while eliminating the frustration of having a task assigned without a clear purpose.
3. Who’s going to be there?
If you want your team to be empowered, put them at the biggest tables. Make sure they know the other people they’re going to work with, and give them any insights into the power structure and personal foibles of those involved. This preparatory question can set boundaries and expectations, and give your people the advantage.
4. Does this make sense?
Because you’re the boss, you’re going to get a lot of nods in your direction, even if nobody really agrees or comprehends what you’re saying. Don’t just orate and evacuate, have conversations when delivering direction. A little focusing goes a long way, makes your team feel heard, and makes you less likely to get nods of misunderstanding in the future.
5. Can we break this down?
Defining scope, streamlining descriptions, clearly defining the goals, building out a feasible timeline, setting priorities: anything that can take a massive project and turn it into series of bite-sized jobs will make the entire thing run more smoothly (and help you delegate the smaller tasks as the project it progresses).
6. Do you have what you need?
This question always requires follow-up with specifics: does your team need more time, more space, more clarity? Do they need access to information or the freedom to take their vacation days? This question shows that you both understand and empathize.