One of the best leaders I ever worked for was constantly asking questions. He wanted to know how we were doing, how this process worked, how that improvement had been made, or how were were looking to take things to the next level.
He was very engaged and made everyone feel like they were important and a key component of the business.
He was also provocative with his questioning, asking how we could improve, or whether we had ever considered this idea or that idea. He really made us think and kept us on our toes, which consequently increased our engagement.
He took a real interest in everything and everyone. He also had a fantastic memory, it was amazing how much he would remember, both about the work and also on the personal side.
One time asked him about it, how he could remember so much and he just said that ‘it was a question of practise’ he also said he didn’t remember everything, but he did remember more the more he practised.
I also asked him about him about his style, using lots of questions, and here I found his answer very interesting.
He said as CEO people were always keen to speak with him, and at times it was difficult for him to think of things to day, he wasn’t naturally good at small talk, but he found by asking questions it would take the pressure off of him a little because listening is easier than talking and it had the added benefit of helping to give him a better understanding of the business.
He also said that he found that people were always vey keen to tell him what they did, they had a sense of pride in their work, and just by talking about their job with him, the CEO, he could see this pride rise, which is great because the more pride people take in their work the better the job could be.
Then things just flow naturally, when people answer your questions it usually throws up interesting information which can then let you either make observations or ask further questions.
It also made him feel closer to his people, and consequently made them feel close to him.
I remember I attended one Management Summit and the he came and sat at a table I was at, there was just the two of us. He asked me if I minded him joining me, said he thought that with me we could talk about something other than business.
Then he surprised me when he said, you know I’m a big football fan, he supports Bayern Munich, but one of my favourite teams of all time is the Leeds United teams of the 70’s, then he named the entire starting line up.
I don’t remember telling him I was from Leeds, or that I am Leeds United fan, so i was amazed and honoured. When I asked him how he knew, he just said you told me 3 years ago, when we were all watching the world cup at a previous Management Summit.
We talked about football for about 30 minuets as we ate lunch, it was a very animated discussion, and then at the end, he clapped me on the shoulder and thanked me for giving him a break from being the CEO.
I can honestly say that interaction increased my engagement, and also my bond to our CEO, and all this was possible because of a question he’d asked 3 years ago.
As leaders anything we can do to increase engagement should be nurtured, the more engagement we have the better our overall performance will be.
So why not try by asking questions, they can be as simple as so tell me what you do, or how does this process work, then you can leave your staff to do all the talking and increase their own engagement 🙂