Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.
Nanette is just getting ready to walk her team through the project post-mortem meeting after the conclusion of a big event. Although the overall event was successful, there were some frustrations along the way, and Nanette is disappointed with the performance of some of her team members. Which question do you think will help Nanette start the meeting off on the right foot?
A. Do you know how bad this made us look?
B. What could we do better next time?
If you answered B, you may already have a basic understanding of the importance of how you ask questions to generate the best results and the type of questioning that will be most productive. That's what this lesson is all about: learning how to ask high performance questions that promote curiosity, accountability, and growth.
High Performance Questions
So you may be thinking, ''What exactly is a high performance question?'' Well, we can define a high performance question as one that encourages people to think and come to answers on their own. Impactful questions of this nature come from leaders and managers who believe more in helping their teams learn and adapt to specific situations as a group rather than simply telling them what to do or think. In essence, it's the difference between a team thinking for itself and being bossed around.
Ask, Don't Tell
One of the central tenets of the idea of asking high performance questions for agile teams is the notion of asking, rather than telling. In truth, nobody wants to be bossed around. Even if you're the manager of a team or work group, telling people what to do, instead of helping them figure out what to do, gives off the appearance of being a condescending know-it-all.
Questions that tell, like ''Did you really do your best on this project?'', insinuate that no, you don't think the individual or team did their best work. Instead, a question that asks, like ''What parts of this project gave you problems?'', gives team members an opportunity to speak freely without fear of judgment.
'Ask, don't tell' questions make no criticisms or assumptions of the person or team being asked. Rather, they give the team an opportunity to reflect on their own thoughts and share them in a constructive manner. This approach helps high-performing teams to flourish and be more successful.
Questioning for Growth
Throughout time, questioning has been used for a lot of things: to find out what a significant other wants for dinner, to get clarification on a project, to interrogate suspects in criminal matters. But, asking questions, the right kinds of questions, can also be useful in helping agile teams be the best they can be.
What types of questions are we talking about? Basically, open-ended questions that get people thinking, questions that create conversation, and even questions that show there's no wrong answer and every response can be useful. Those are the types of questions you want to get to for high-performing teams.
High performance questions can be used to get people thinking, challenge existing ideas, and foster an atmosphere of acceptance and learning. Ask them and let the conversation flow. As a manager, look for opportunities to ask follow-up questions as the conversation progresses. Here are some examples:
- What does success in this team/on this project/for this company look like?
- What are our strengths and weaknesses?
- What would happen if we did _____?
- How can we improve on this project next time?
- What lessons have we learned through this experience?
- What ideas do you have to help us grow?
- What are we currently doing that we should stop doing?
- How did you reach that conclusion?
- How can we change lives with this product/service/process?
- What would happen if we did nothing?
So high performance questions can be used to get people thinking, challenge existing ideas, and foster an atmosphere of acceptance and learning in a team. The key to this is to focus questions on asking so that team members feel the freedom to contribute to the conversation and engage in free-thinking rather than telling team members what to say or think. High performance questions include things like, ''How can we improve on this the next time?'' or ''What lessons did we learn through this experience?'' These open-ended style questions can be used in a team setting to create an environment for high-performing, agile groups to grow.
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