The Better the Questions, the Better the Employment Manager

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I was invited to an event not long ago that honored a hall of fame college basketball coach Eddie Sutton.  It was a great event where many of his players from the past showed up to not only honor him, but also share stories that were funny learning lessons as well as serious ways in which this great coach helped to guide them in the right direction in both life as well as on the basketball court.  I think almost everyone learned something that evening.  I would like to share some of the lessons I learned about managing employees that evening.

I remember one player went up and told several short stories where he had done something on the basketball court that was really stupid.  He said that rather than directly telling him that he had done something stupid, that Eddie had started asking him questions that forced himself to come to the conclusion himself that he had done something really stupid.  He mentioned “after he (Eddie Sutton) was finished asking me questions, I kept saying to myself……man that was stupid!”  He said that he used these same tactics on his children and imperatively promised that it worked and encouraged all of us to “just try it”……Promising that it would help in parenting.

Not only did I personally take this information and utilize it with my children at home (which works famously by-the-way) but I also have used the same methods with my employees.  What I realized is that there are not many people that like to be told what to do.  There are many that would prefer for the idea to be their own.  Dale Carnagie  Talks about this in his very famous book “How to Win Friends and Influence People.  Getting people to think that a scenario is his or her idea is a big advantage over having to convince them that your suggestion is the right way to go.  You can do that by asking specific questions that lead them in the direction that you are thinking.

I will offer a couple of helpful hints that I learned the hard way in learning this method of managing.  The first is to be genuinely interested in the person that you are coaching and their answers to your questions.  This will not only direct you to your next question, but it helps you to learn their line of thinking.  This is often something that is naturally hard to do; especially when you are frustrated with the individual.  However, if you can prepare yourself to BE PATIENT, you will likely thank yourself later and it will most likely lead to a much more positive result for both you and the person you are coaching.

According to the Harvard Business Review article “The Questions Good Coaches Ask”, the right questions can stop someone in their tracks as they finally see their own actions from a different perspective or when they can envision a new solution to an old problem.  Sometimes people need to learn to question themselves so that the next time they can catch themselves in the act and change their actions in the moment.  It is very important for many people to learn on their own rather than take someone’s word for it.  Some of the best managers learn this lesson and apply it each day.  And according to many studies done on managing.  It is well backed that this old coaching tip is one well worth perfecting.  I hope that you and your staff can benefit from this small piece of advice.