One of my favorite activities as a Consultant/Coach is fostering the use of “questioning” to really liberate people from their “dreads” and worries about the projects they manage. Project managers need more training in this technique, as they often think they have to have a ready answer to the questions of others. The goal is to ask bigger and bigger questions. Questioning is actually the best way to tap into collective intelligence. My favorite Einstein quote provides proof:
If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on it, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the right question to ask: then I could solve it in five minutes.
.As a former “leader”, I found dialoging the best time to promote great thinking for the rest of the project flow. It makes us rethink the flow, the people, and the process without impacting scope of work. This one to one should be a meeting of minds, not a depressing review of future mine fields. .The Power of Good Questions:
Time spent in meetings with your boss should be focused on key project questions: How do we know it is progressing? What are we doing that we should keep doing to stay on track?
By asking “powerful” questions, we explore real issues ahead.
What is the best move we can make this week or next?
What does our Dashboard (big picture metrics) tell us?
The Questioning process is not a waste of time and can lead to fresh thinking, creativity boosts, focus, and leadership opportunities for all. This is not “navel gazing” but insight and capacity building.
Try focusing on questions and your meeting becomes more fun as well as productive. Focusing on problems only just makes you more demoralized. The best ones relate to hopes, futures, and solutions. Your goal in innovating throughout a project is to create questions that generate curiosity and exploration within the project.
The meetings I observe are often lead by the boss and focused on answers. The agenda is set by him/her, and the focus quickly becomes problem oriented, thereby wasting a great opportunity to educate, coach and keep you Manager (PMO or other leader) from SURPRISES later (like scope issues, schedule dilemmas, priorities). They are not about questions, but about quick off the top of the head solutions without thinking.
Herman says the most important thing is to focus questions on the Accountability of others!
His boss meetings focus on WHO is messing with the plan, and who is missing timelines? Surprise: These difficult people are usually PEERs of the manager. Example: How can we get accounting to cut the red tape for us? Then, they form a strategy to improve collaboration with the manager taking on the job.
More important, this is the time for positive updates. I could show a clear correlation between positive meetings with a boss, and less micromanagement. Positive and mutual learning (how it is going well) reassures “distant” leaders, and helps them support you. This is the time and place to celebrate small successes, great performances, and future targets with a positive attitude. Your best question to explore with bosses, that they love, what did we learn last week that will help us this week, or in the next phase of the project to each other save time, energy, resources?
Your turn: What 3 key questions can you dialogue with your boss about that will lead to higher productivity, more satisfying roles, and game plan that is more fun?
Now that is one way to do more with less!