There are few sales professionals that would argue with “A question is more powerful than a statement.” I’ve spent a lot of time at this blog, and there are hundreds of other articles on the power of great questions in sales. It helps us understand the customer, it helps them know that we are concerned about them and want to understand what they are trying to achieve. It aligns us and bonds us to the customer. It’s critical for our effectiveness as sales professionals. Until we understand what they need, what they are trying to achieve, we can’t agree on solutions that accelerate their ability to achieve their goals.
So we all “get” the power of questions.
But then, let’s look at our behaviors as managers—yes this is actually an article about leadership and performance management. If questioning is such a cornerstone to our effectiveness in connecting with customers, wouldn’t questioning also be a cornerstone to our effectiveness in coaching and developing our people?
There seems to some sort of inherent logic to this, but too often our behaviors as managers is exactly the opposite—we tend to be in “tell mode.” We are directive, we don’t have the time to understand what a person is doing, why they are doing it. We don’t try to understand what drives them, but instead tend to be prescriptive.
Our people are no different than customers, they don’t want to be told, they don’t want to be dictated to. They want to be engaged in a conversation, they want us to understand their views, they want to express their opinions. Until we ask (and observe), we don’t understand the underlying factors that influence the behaviors, actions and results. Our people aren’t producing the results we want, is it lack of knowledge or skill, is it a misunderstanding of expectations, is it something else? Without engaging our people in a conversation, without questioning to understand, we’re just shooting in the dark.
Our jobs as leaders and managers is to help our people achieve the highest levels of performance possible. We do this by providing clear strategies, visions and directions, by establishing goals, by putting in place processes, tools, systems, and training to facilitate our people in executing their responsibilities. We are responsible for coaching, tutoring, correcting, and developing our people. We are responsible for doing everything possible to make sure they have internalized and own the same performance expectations we have of them. We are responsible for providing feedback on their performance and working with them in establishing a plan to improve it.
It seems to me, all of this is accomplished much more effectively by starting with questions rather than statements.
If it works with customers, it stands to reason that it should work with our people. What do you think?
Retrospective: As I reread this post and the values I am espousing, I just caught the irony of my title. Perhaps I should have titled this post “Are questions more powerful than statements?” Oh well–do as I say, not as I do 😉