Are You Open

Questions are the key to meaningful performance conversations. This article provides examples to increase your awareness on using open-ended questions that will lead to more successful performance management.

In a previous article, “Powerful Questions for Powerful Leaders,” we began a series of tips designed to build your skills in asking powerful questions. You’ve heard me say time and time again, “questions are the key to a meaningful performance conversation.” We first explored the concept that paraphrasing allows you to confirm what the employee has said and then redirect the conversation if necessary.  In this article we’ll look at another critical concept of a painless performance conversation:

Make questions open-ended.

This concept is a bit of a “duh.” We all know that open-ended questions, those that require more than a yes/no answer, are more appropriate if you are trying to engage the other person in the conversation. Still, how conscious are you of the openness of your daily questions? Here are a few examples.

Example: “Do you like your work?” is not open-ended. You are likely to get a short, blunt answer to a question like this. An alternative way to ask the question which is open-ended is, “What about your work do you most enjoy?” The response is more likely to be robust enough to give you insights into the employee’s motivations.

Example: “Are you going to make that mistake again?” is closed-ended and will likely put the employee on the defensive. It is parental in nature and does not allow the employee to participate in the problem-solving. An open ended alternative would be, “What are you going to do next time to make sure the outcome is more effective?”

Example: “Have you considered calling the vendor back?” is a question that is really a directive. You may have a clear picture of what the employee should do. In fact, you may have several suggestions for the employee. In time, you can offer your suggestions. However, if you want to engage the employee in solving the problem or if your goal is to coach them to higher levels of performance in the future, giving them the answer, even in the form of a closed question, is not the most effective approach. Instead, use an open-ended question like, “What solutions have you considered?”

Throughout the next few daysFree Articles, be aware of every question you ask. Are they really open ended questions or are they closed?

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