The five questions to ask your team in 2022

As a small business or agency owner, it’s likely you decided to take that next step into leadership because you’re good at what you do.

You’re technically skilled and selling or managing property is your forte.

But as your business grows you also get quite adept at ‘fixing things’, things that your business needs to grow, develop and improve.

As you grow you add to your team. An executive assistant to manage your diary and maybe even a co-agent joins the team.

And, in small business, this is where the real fun starts. 

You now have a team, a team of people who can not only sort out some of the work, but a team who can also bring problems to you to fix, every day. 

Suddenly, rather than buying yourself extra time or freedom, you are more swamped than ever. So what do you do?

How to get your team to do more

If you, as a leader, want to have more time for devising strategy and focusing on dollar-productive tasks, or even, just more time for you, the best place to start is with how you approach your team.

The key to success starts with you, and your ability to consciously choose a success mindset

A success mindset that carefully frames the problem into solution-focused opportunity, rather than creating a witch-hunt for the root cause of a problem. 

Most importantly, the Success Mindset Model is a great place to start because it can be broken into five simple questions that can have immediate results.

The Success Mindset – outcome vs blame

As a leader, you want to help people, but you also want to help them learn. 

Unfortunately, when things go wrong, you can find yourself stuck in the blame game, trying to decipher who is right and who is wrong.

The quickest way to escalate a situation is to ask questions like: What’s wrong? Who’s to blame for this? Who’s going to fix it?  

These questions dig around in fault and don’t help us to move forward.

Question 1:

A better way to solve problems is to keep ourselves focused on what outcome we want. To do this, some better questions include: 

  • Where are you now?
  • Where do you want to be?
  • What is the gap? 
  • What resources do you need?
  • What actions are you going to take to move forward?

So next time that a problem blows up, instead of asking, ‘What happened?’ try substituting it with, ‘What action do you want take?’ and see if you can feel the difference from your team. 

It will shift the focus from you (and what you need to do to fix it) to them (and how they can sort it).

The Success Mindset – how versus why

As a leader, you will spend the best part of your day communicating. Most of that communication is likely trying to drive change or improvement. 

Nothing will slow down your momentum more than carrying out an autopsy on why something happened.

You might be guilty of asking you team a question like ‘Why didn’t this job get done?’. A ‘why’ style question will send your team on the defence and typically ends in justification of their actions.

Question 2:

Whereas, when you ask a ‘how’ question, like, ‘How are we going to fix it?’ or ‘How can we solve this?’ You will generally get a better response as the recipient is part of the solution.

Try the switch from, Why did this happen?’ and replace it with, ‘How do you want to fix this?’ and wait for the magic to happen.

The Success Mindset – possibilities versus necessities

When you are stuck, you might find that you get focused on what you ‘have to do’ or the necessity of what is going on, rather than what is possible.  

You might find that, in a crisis, you and your team ask questions like, ‘What do we have to do?’ or ‘What do they want?’ and ‘When is the deadline?’

Question 3:

A better way of moving you, and your team, out of the ‘have to’ rut is to give yourself a moment to consider the possibilities. 

Questions that allow you the time to consider an alternative, rather than the crisis, are helpful here. Try questions like,  ‘What is possible?’, ‘How can we do this in a different way?’ and ‘What are our other options?’

So in the next crisis give yourself, and your team, the space to move from ‘what do they want?’ to ‘how can we make this happen?’.  Then, take a deep breath, consider the possibilities and feel the weight lift from your shoulders.

The Success Mindset – feedback versus failure

When you focus on failure and what went wrong, you are not able to see the lesson or grow your understanding of a situation. Questions that will keep you trapped include, ‘Why did that fail?’, ‘What caused this problem? and, ‘Whose fault is this?

When you ask questions like these you can create a situation that is so big that you begin to feel there is no coming back from it.

Question 4:

Asking your team to focus on what they learnt, rather than making a list of mistakes, cultivates a learning culture

Try asking questions like, ‘What has happened, so far?’, ‘What have you learnt?’ or ‘How could we avoid this in the future?’ and ‘How will you know when you have succeeded?’

Rather than asking, ‘What went wrong?’, next time ask ‘What could you do differently?’

Watch what happens to your team when they focus on growth rather than the blame and shame of the situation.

The Success Mindset – curiosity versus assumptions

As a leader, you might jump to a conclusion based on your assumption about what is happening with your team.  

You might fall into this trap when you make statements such as, ‘You obviously know…. ‘ or ‘You think that….’ and,  ‘It’s obvious that…’

Question 5:

If you are more curious as a leader, you might ask your team, ‘What are we assuming here?’ or ‘What are we assuming about them, their thoughts or their reactions?’ and ‘What has to be true for this to be a real issue?’

When you carefully check your assumptions, you are generally more curious, which can lead to more creative solutions. 

Lead your team from an assumptive statement like, ‘They always behave like that’ to a more curious approach by asking ‘What are we missing here?’.

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Kerry Swan

Kerry Swan is the author of Heartfelt Leadership, as well as a self employed consultant, coach and teacher. Kerry works closely with her husband Craig across their diverse range of family businesses has worked with hundreds of leaders. Visit www.kerryswan.com