People like to work with people they trust.
They get more done. Faster. More efficiently. For a higher good.
- If you're a leader, you might have an imposed expectation on yourself demanding you always be on, and you always have all the (right) answers.
- If you're a parent, a spouse, or a friend, you might think you must have it all figured out already; that if someone comes to you for help or advice you need to know what to do, and you need to stop whatever you’re doing to help them.
- If you're a manager, an employee or an intern, you may have an unconscious bias that asking for help (a question) puts you in a position of powerlessness.
Many of us wake up each morning hoping to have a day that will be better than before. Not that yesterday was bad, it's just in our nature to want to improve. Are you with me?
You want to be better than before.
Whether you're building something up or creating something new, you're going to have to work collaboratively with other people. Whether you meet with groups of people regularly or talk one-on-one by video, phone or instant messaging, you'll get things done (and usually done faster and better) when people trust you more. And, when we trust each other, we are better. Every time.
By better, I mean "efficient, effective, innovative." There are three questions you can ask to increase the likelihood people will trust you more. The first two are easy to answer. Use the third question carefully and sparingly; it can be a sensitive one.
When someone asks what the #1 skill to develop as you become more competitive, better and more prepared for the future, I always say:
Practice asking new questions.
In other words, lead with curiosity. Turn the first thing you think of into a question; more importantly a new question, a different question. (NOTE: You’ll especially want to do this when the stakes are high or you’re stressed.”)
1. DON'T ASK "What can I get for you?"
Instead ask, "What do you need?"
When meeting someone for the first time, it’s easy to use traditional negotiation skills, whether you're the one buying or selling. Make sure you also learn about their needs and understand their perspective. Build rapport by listening to THEM tell you what THEY need from you.
As you get more familiar - and comfortable - using this question, you might use different words. Experiment with what works for you. Sometimes, you'll notice that you don't have to ask, but during the conversation, something happens and the other person confides in you, telling you what they're looking for, what they need from you.
I coach clients to lead with questions. In our book, "Get Momentum: How to Start When You're Stuck," we ask the reader to practice asking questions.
As you can infer from the title of the book, it’s necessary to start at the beginning. Once you know what the other person wants to get momentum on, you’ll then be able to lead with curiosity and find ways to help them get to where they want to be.
2. Don't ask, "Is there something I'm missing?"
Instead ask, "What else can I notice?"
Watch what happens when you recognize people who contribute to the organization’s success; people around you who are doing great work. Catch them doing something right, acknowledge them by telling them specifically how their work helps the team, the company or the cause.
Of course, it would save time (and money, and resources!) if people would stop us when we start to go off course. (Please, tell me if it seems like we're wasting time or it feels like we are not working on our priorities!) The sooner you notice something right below the surface, you can casually and tactfully bring it into the conversation. Trust me, if you catch a misunderstanding or recognize a perception you were missing you’ll be glad you did!
But, some people aren't built that way. OR, if they do cut us off, we can think they're rude or not interested in building a working relationship together.
For many of you reading this, the work you do is handling actions, managing transactions, and even resolving crises as they appear. So, it may seem out of place to wonder (or even ask), "What else can I notice?"
However, when you give yourself this gift of your attention, you put yourself in a powerful position of being able to see “more-than-just-your-perspective” and you can lift the other person (or people) up in front of you.
Again, you may or may not ask this question out loud, but by when it’s acknowledged that we operate with "less than 100% of the information" available, we convey our focus on working together, together.
3. Don't ask, "Do you have any questions?"
Instead ask, "What are you worried about?"
I speak at on-site meetings for companies around the country and the world - about 30 each year. (Yes, these meetings and conferences are always about productivity, collaboration, and time management.)
Often, as I finish my keynote or workshop, the coordinator (usually a senior leader in the organization) asks me if it's OK to talk after I'm finished. Of course, I always say yes; they hired me! However, when I know someone is going to close the session, I always ask this question 5-15 minutes before I'm done...
"What are you worried about now that you've heard my program?"
I invite everyone in the audience to write something down on a note card and pass it to the front of the room. Then, when the leader takes the stage and (invariably!) asks, "Does anyone have a question for Jason?" I will look out and ask someone to hand me the cards. Then, I will turn one of these "anonymous" concerns into a question.
Works every time!
NOTE: You may or may not be able to ask or address the concerns or worries in real time. Pay attention throughout the event, the day, the time you spend with other people.
Sometimes this isn't a question you ask as much as one you intuit. If you listen to (and watch, and feel) how the conversation is going, you may be able to identify something below the surface. When you do this, and you find a way to bring it up in the conversation, you demonstrate your commitment to working together, together.
But, if it isn’t possible to do something during the conversation (if there is something you think they are worried about) find some way to follow up with them later that day; by the end of the week at the latest. This that lets them know you’re concerned about and in tune with their needs.
Effective leaders notice when the people around them need support, need to be noticed, or are challenged by what’s in front of them. Make it your job as their trusted confidante to make it easier for them to be at their best and do their best work.
Keep on being the leader, the parent, the friend, the vendor and the volunteer you think you should be; that won't change after reading one article. Just remember to add in a question now and then. Be curious, be patient, be kind...be someone they can trust.
Ask these questions, build trust with those around you and get more done…faster and better than ever before.