The pressures of work are different. We need different conversations to engage people more deeply, manage stresses and leverage their potential. New questions start new conversations.
Here are the five questions that are creating great value for me in my work at present.
I am endeavouring to use variants of these questions consistently in all kinds of meetings and interactions in my work. These questions flowed from the recognition that Working From Home in a Deadly Global Pandemic is a different work experience that has new and different demands. In particularly, we need to work against the isolation and the narrow bandwidth of our current work arrangements. We also need to give people greater autonomy so that they can get more done in their day, without having to stop for meetings, approvals or input of others. Questions lead to learning. Using questions helps us to foster a culture of learning within our teams.
How are you?
This is a question we routinely ask and flippantly answer. At this time there is value in going deeper and sharing more of our personal experiences. From checking that people are really OK to allowing time for deeper discussion of personal circumstances, it is important to spend the time and show interest in our colleagues and connections. The insights of spending the time understanding how others is travelling will underpin how we care better.
What do you think?
When it can be exciting to talk to others, we sometimes forget to gather all the opinions around us. Showing genuine interest in others’ views and perspectives will improve the quality of the feedback, suggestions and help you get. The question leads to better collaboration and understanding. Those around us can be great at filling our blindspots and powering our understanding of how to do better or different.
What help do you need from me?
The help people need is the subtext of a lot of conversation. Bringing the subtext to the surface makes it easier and more safe for people to ask for help or share their challenges. When we are busy and stressed, some of these challenges may be no issue at all to another person with another perspective. Whether it is perspective, insights, assistance or connection, asking what someone needs helps tailor the value in the relationship to their needs.
What do you need to do that yourself?
Autonomy is rarely an accident. People need to feel authorised and supported to take additional responsibilities and get on with the work. Ask them what they need. The question puts forward the idea that the responsibility to tackle challenges is in their court. Together you will learn what people need to be more comfortable to exercise their power and autonomy.
What do we need to learn?
We might like to pretend our expertise makes us all knowing and perfect. Reality is that there is a lot to learn. Consistently bringing up learning as a goal of the work embeds an openness to new inputs and a willingness to experiment. We are all better when we are learning together.
If we all ask these questions consistently the people in and around our work will learn the questions. The more we ask questions that go to care, support, collaboration, learning and empowerment the more human our work will be.