One of the things we uncovered in our research into what generates conversation was that asking questions is particularly impactful (discussion threads are 250% longer), and I previously posted a summary of our findings; ‘The power of the ?‘.
Since then we’ve launched the Curiosity Index in SWOOP and it helps every one – from individuals all the way to the whole enterprise – understand their own level of curiosity, ie how many questions you ask. It will also show the difference it has when you ask questions. As you can see from the screenshot below I am a little less curious than my colleagues, but at 31% we’re quite ahead of the average at around 10%. We’ll publish more about this in September.
As this HBR article so elegantly puts it: “Leadership is Conversation“, and Enterprise Social Networks are perfect places to ask questions. I think senior leaders have a special role in being catalysts for conversation by asking pertinent questions.
I recently downloaded an e-book from 15Five which had a whole bunch of questions recommended for getting feedback from employees. My top 20 favourite questions are listed below (some slightly rephrased and modified). Just imagine what would happen if CEOs asked one of these every fortnight?
- What’s the biggest growth opportunity that you see for our company right now? What are we not doing that we should be?
- What’s one project you’d love to focus on for an entire week but don’t have time to accomplish? Why?
- What are we spending a ton of time doing, that has the least impact?
- What was the most positive compliment you received about our company from a customer this week?
- What was the most common negative piece of feedback you received from a customer lately?
- How would you describe our company to a potential customer?
- What is something you or a customer would like to see on the product roadmap?
- How is management doing? Any feedback for me on my leadership?
- What’s a way that I can improve my communication or listening skills?
- What’s something you need from someone on a different team that you aren’t getting?
- Tell me about a customer problem that you turned around lately. What was it?
- What is a great cross-team initiative that you haven’t shared. Who would be best for it?
- Who on a different team would you like to include in a brainstorming session? Why?
- If you could shadow anyone in the company for a day, who would it be? Why?
- What are our competitors doing that you think is great and why?
- What new thing did you learn this week?
- Are we providing our people enough growth opportunities? If not, what’s missing?
- What’s one of the favourite parts of your job? What about least favourite?
- Who did something amazing that made your day? Share a bit about why.
- Name an example of someone who is living our values. What did the person do?
Senior leaders should, of course, only ask these questions if they are willing to listen to the answers. If we want to give our people a voice we need to give them the psychological safety to speak up, listen to them, and reply thoughtfully.
The list above is only for inspiration. What other questions could change your organisation?