Leaders Master the Art of Questioning to Raise Employee Engagement
If you are a leader within your organization who also serves as a mentor to others, we strongly recommend a recent article by Marshall Goldstein about how to work with your protégés or “mentees” by asking understanding questions or probing questions that really challenge the mentee to think deeply about their ideas, their predispositions, and their internal motivations. We found Goldstein’s brief work a great refresher on how to use questions to engage the person more deeply in the self-discovery process.
“The more the mind experiences creative discovery, the more it hunts another insight. This pursuit of insight or discovery is “curiosity.” To the mind, curiosity is its own reward. The byproduct of perpetual curiosity is wisdom.”
This ties directly into our Pursuit of Truth leadership mindset, too, so this advice extends well beyond coaching and mentoring, encompassing everything you do as a leader to engage your employees more fully in your mission. To paraphrase Goldstein:
How can you as a leader start this insight-curiosity-wisdom chain in the minds of each employee?
One of our top facilitators of the mentoring process says patience on the part of the mentor (or any leader) is critical.
“That’s one of the hardest techniques to embed as a habit in a mentor, instilling the idea that the person he or she is mentoring has to reach conclusions and obtain insight her or himself. You cannot “pre-dispose the witness” by asking leading questions or helpfully finishing their sentences before they have fully composed their responses. They must own and believe in their own ideas, not thoughts you provide.”
As a boss, you are automatically put in the role of a mentor to all of your employees. If you help them achieve a higher level of self-understanding and motivation, you will find it easier to fully engage that employee, and will obtain a more productive team member.
So, mastering the “art” of asking questions like a mentor will improve your engagement ability.
I though Goldstein outlined the questioning process succinctly. Here are his steps. See if you agree:
Start with a setup statement: Questions can be more powerful if the sender and receiver are on the same wavelength. Starting with a setup statement establishes identification and context.
Ask questions that require higher-level thinking: The goal is to create insight, not to share information. The main objective is to nurture understanding and growth, not just exchange facts. Construct questions that require the protégé to dig
Avoid questions that begin with “why”: In most cultures, a question that begins with the word “why” is perceived as judgmental. Body language can play a role in how such questions are perceived, but even with perfect body language, our antennae go up as soon as we hear a “why” question.
Bovo-Tighe Insight: This needs a bit more amplification: Ask “what” or “how” questions that seek to understand without judgment. This emphasizes objective over subjective thinking, and focuses that thinking on how to respond to situations productively.
Use curiosity to stimulate curiosity: Socrates did more than ask good questions. He demonstrated enthusiasm for the learning process. Attitude is as much a part of the Socratic method as technique.
As a leader, you must be fully engaged with the success of your employees, and share that passion with them. This creates a stronger bond, and should kindle a higher level of enthusiasm, and involvement, in the team’s mission. And make it more fun for all of you, too, which will speed your progress!
Get “mentored up” yourself!
If your role as a leader ever becomes a burden, examine your own motives and conflicts to see if they can be resolved (ask for help from your own mentors and other leaders in your organization.) Your goal is your employee’s success, and connecting them to the right resources to achieve that is one of your primary roles as their leader. If you are not honestly asking yourself the same probing questions you ask them, you are cutting yourself off from a key source of personal engagement and leadership capacity.