More Questions for Leaders who Seek Self-Improvement

It can be helpful for leaders to use feedback from their teams in order to become more effective.

Getting feedback from your team, however, comes with obstacles. One such obstacle is that people are often reluctant to be totally honest with their boss. They may be skeptical or feel like it’s not completely safe. Relationships matter, so having great relationships with your people is a pre-requisite to receiving feedback. Another aspect of feedback that matters is how it’s worded. I recently heard two great ways to word questions:

  • How can I be even easier to work with?
  • What does support from me look like? (Brown, B. (2018). Dare to Lead. Random House, New York.)

These questions don’t just have to be from leaders to team members; team members can ask these of each other, too. Let’s look a little closer at each question.

1. How can I be even easier to work with?

This question gives the respondent credit that they’re not going to insult the asker. If I ask, “How can I be easy to work with?” The respondent may immediately answer with “Oh – you’re totally easy to work with. One of my favorites!” This answer isn’t meaningful and it may not even be true. When you ask the question above, however, you’re more likely to get honest, helpful answers. 

Here’s an example of an expected outcome:

Janine asked one of her team members, “How can I be even easier to work with?”

Rae thought for a moment. “Hmmm, well, sometimes you give me a lot of background info and it bogs me down—just a little—so it would be easier if you gave me less background, then let me fill in the gaps, if needed.”

2. What does support from me look like?

I like this question because it forces an answer while maintaining a safe environment for honesty. When you ask this question, no one will answer “nothing.” Now, if you ask a closed-ended question like, “Could I be more supportive?” or “Am I supportive enough?” you’ll likely not receive a meaningful answer. In fact, a simple “Yes” or “No” will effectively answer these questions. But, when you ask “What does support from me look like?,” the person you’re talking to will define support for you. And, it might already be what you’re doing. Either way, they will let you know.

I witnessed this example a while back:

“What does support from me look like?” Gerry asked.

Gerry’s direct report straightened. “Ask me once a day, preferably in the early afternoon, if there’s anything I need from you.”

Notice the answers to these questions are specific, measurable, achievable, and relevant. Introduce these questions to your team, ask them of your team, and encourage your team to ask them to others. Then let me know how it went. I’d love to hear your success stories!

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