(This is Part 3 in The Liberating Leader at Work series. Read Part 2 here.)
I know a guy who is expanding his influence at work by going “three questions deep” with his foremen, just once a week.
A Tale of a Competent (but Lacking) Manager
He’s an amazingly competent manager with a track record of “getting it done”, but he’s wired in such a way that people only see him through the “boss lens”, and for that reason work feels like a perpetual uphill battle. His foremen are compliant but not entirely truthful, and he really, really, really wants to win relationally with them. So I asked him to describe his normal Monday morning engagement with them. He goes around to each one, and the conversation goes like this:
Boss: “How you doin’?”
Boss: “What’s going on around here?”
Every Manager Needs Emotional Intelligence
What my friend is needing to do is to increase his emotional intelligence. I said, “Your team knows you’re competent, but they aren’t convinced that you know anything about them outside of work. Could you name their spouses or their kids? Could you tell me where they grew up, or what they do for fun?” Of course, it was a rhetorical question–he didn’t know much about them. But my question raised an urgency in his spirit.
He wanted to get better, so I gave him an assignment. I said, “Let’s have some fun with Monday mornings. It’ll shock your foremen, and it’ll give you tons of interpersonal traction with them. I’m going to have you go at least three questions deep with each of them.”
How to Go Three Questions Deep
The plan was simple. He would have a supply of 3X5 cards, one for each of his lead men. He would start to make personal notes about each leader on their card…information about their family, their interests, and so on. And each Monday morning he would ask them at least three questions about their weekend. “So how was your weekend?” “Oh, you went to the cabin. Where’s that, again?” “How did you acquire that property?” Or whatever it took.
Most often, it goes further than three questions, and he’s actually enjoying doing it. And it’s making a difference. A colleague bragged about him to me in a meeting not long ago. “You should see how people are responding. He’s becoming the most-favored manager in our entire operation.”
So the lesson is this: If you don’t know anything about your employees outside of work, start by going at least three questions deep.
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