Brenda's Blog

Open, Closed, and Numbers Questions

As a leader of others, the type of questions you ask can make a big difference in how well those questions empower and help team members grow.

First and foremost, think in terms of “open” instead of “closed” questions.

Open questions lead to answers filled with information. Beginning with words such as “who, what, when, where, and how,” open-ended questions are crafted in ways that encourage direct reports to open up and share answers in depth. An example would be, “How would you describe our company’s culture?”

Closed questions can only be answered directly with a word or two, such as “Do you like the culture here?” This limiting question, calling for either a “yes” or “no” answer. This kind of answer doesn’t lead you very far, and it certainly doesn’t kick-start a dialogue.

Use Numbers! Our brains love questions with a number in them! They’re great for stimulating creativity, focusing thoughts, and providing a simple framework within which to work. If you find a team member getting stuck with a particular problem, pose a numbers question, and see what happens. You may be pleasantly surprised how well it opens up a dialogue and creates a breakthrough.

Here are some examples:

“What are the three major challenges preventing us from reaching our goals?”

“What are the top four approaches we could pursue for the XYZ project …?”

“Let’s brainstorm the five most powerful ways we could …”

“What are the three most important steps we could take to achieve …?”

Brenda Bence Bio

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Powerful Questions

The best way to develop your team is by asking powerful questions. Yes, it’s true that this can take slightly more time than immediately telling employees what to do. But, if you don’t make the time to ask questions of your team members, you will end up being the one answering all of the questions and doing more work than necessary — a sign that your team has become dependent on you. And once that happens, you’ll never step out of that never-ending cycle unless you make the decision to change your behaviors and begin asking vs. telling.

In fact, I believe that asking instead of telling is a fundamental behavior of great leaders. In my shadowing experience, I see that the strongest leaders are those who don’t respond to queries from their staff right off the bat—that is, they don’t tell an staff member what to do and then send the employee away to implement the plan. Instead, they ask powerful questions that get team members to stop, reflect, grow, and challenge him/herself. Read the rest of this entry »

Soaring vs. Swooping

Successful leaders spend more time “soaring” than “swooping.” What does this mean? Their job is to focus on the vision for where the company is going and on planning through others the “how” of achieving that vision. On occasion, however, a leader may need to swoop down and check out the details of a particular situation or project to make sure all is going well.

The key is to not spend too much time in the details but to soar back up to vision and planning as quickly as possible. When leaders become engrossed with details, they tend to take two different approaches which can be counterproductive rather than productive: Read the rest of this entry »

Development is an Ongoing Task

 

professional-development

In my recently released book – “Would You Want to Work For You?” How to Build an Executive Leadership Brand that Inspires Loyalty and Drives Employee Performance – I argue that building people is simply part of your job as a leader, and I offer strategies for developing your employees on a day-to-day basis.

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Where do you place your focus as a leader?

The focus of your attention affects everything you do as a leader. Where you choose to place your focus and how you choose to use your time says as much about you as a leader as any other indicator.

A model called the “Five Levels of Focus” gives you a simple but powerful framework for this. Created by Australian author and consultant David Rock, applying the Five Levels of Focus helps leaders choose where to place their energy and attention at any point in time. According to this model, there are five distinct levels: (1) Vision, (2) Planning, (3) Details, (4) Problems, and (5) Drama.

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Would you rather be liked or respected?

 Liked vs Respected

As leaders, we want to be liked, but we also want to be respected. Can we be both? Not only do I believe it’s possible, but I’ve personally witnessed many leaders walking a beautifully balanced line between the two.

Accomplishing both isn’t always easy, though. What happens when the balance tips too far in one direction or the other?

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Quiz: What is the #1 cause of employee turnover?

 

Bad-management

To answer this question, take a moment to reflect on the best and the worst jobs you’ve ever had. What role did your boss play in how you felt about those positions? If you’re like a large number of the leaders I’ve worked with, the best jobs you’ve had involved a great boss who spent time with you and taught you a lot. Your worst jobs, on the other hand, probably involved a boss you didn’t like that much—someone who micromanaged your activities or put you down.

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Put an Employee in Your Shoes

In my upcoming book – Would You Want to Work For You? – I discuss employee development strategies and how to build your people without losing precious time. I also talk about the importance of receiving feedback from your team.

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Does your company “get” you?

1 team(4)

Communication is everything, so if people aren’t understanding your message, you may as well be speaking to the wall. This recent Forbes.com article, “When CEOs Talk Strategy, 70% of the Company Doesn’t Get it” outlines the issues that cause miscommunication and misalignment and ways to make sure your people “get” you and your message.

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Are you a good listener?

shutterstock_17244469

As leaders, we often overlook listening skills. After all, aren’t leaders supposed to tell people what to do instead of listening? Aren’t great leaders supposed to be heard instead of hearing what others have to say?

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