Is A Question Standing Between You And Your Team’s Success?

As a team leader or manager it is easy to believe you know what is happening with your team. After all, you are only one degree of separation away. You may have been promoted from their ranks. You have one-on-ones. You are intimately involved in their work. How could you not be fully on the pulse of their experience?

A Small Mistake With Big Risks

In my last blog post I wrote about my big founder mistake of failing to actually watch customers use our product. I talked to them about it. I presented it. I used it myself. But I didn’t watch them in action. As a result I thought I understood them more deeply than I actually did.

So too, team leaders can misunderstand or be unaware of the experiences of team members which all too often get lost in the translation of the standard communication processes and interactions teams have. This can be a hard pill for a leader to swallow - accepting they don’t know their team as well as they think they do - because it threatens one of the core foundations of the leader’s ego.

How can I possibly be a strong leader if I don’t understand my team? And since I believe I am a strong leader I must have great understanding of my team. Ipso facto I must already know what I need to know.

This can be a dangerous conclusion, creating blinders to understanding that could improve team relationships, employee retention and performance.

Why We All Fail (And Reasonably So)

I’ve coached and trained thousands of senior executives and frontline managers over the past nearly 20 years. In all that time I’ve never heard even one of them complain that the problem they face is having too much time on their hands.

We are all busy. We have real responsibilities in the form of projects, goals, initiatives. We have the regular bombardment of email, texts and now endless notifications from our electronic devices telling us to pay attention to something demanding our attention.

More and more every day we live in a world with a constant stream of unimportant but urgent seeming tasks sucking our time away from us.

And when we live in the space of what is unimportant but urgent, we fail to spend adequate time on what is important but not urgent.

Reveal The Important But Not Urgent

When it comes to your team, the simple truth is that they know things you don’t. They know things about you, about your product or service, about your customers, about your goals. They are your fountain of knowledge.

In the course of normal work, we tend to ask lots of questions, but they are generally of the urgent variety. What is happening on this project? When will you be done with that report? What do you need for that event?

To reveal the important but not urgent, we need a whole different set of questions. There are 1000s of questions you could ask your team, but when it comes to getting to the heart of how they can inform you in the most valuable way, almost all questions boil down to some version of this one, shown to me by Chris Beall, CEO of a phenomenal sales company Connect and Sell.

Ask This One Question

What do you know that I don’t know that I must know to achieve my desired results?

Click this question to auto-generate a Spark (a.k.a., brainstorm) to discover insights from your team.

What’s A Spark?

By clicking the question above you will generate a quick online brainstorm to gather your team’s answers to that question. It takes under one minute to create and under three minutes for each team member to answer (anonymously if they desire) and vote up the most important responses.

If you’ve done even a halfway decent job in hiring/selecting your team, they have answers to that question. But it isn’t the kind of thing that comes up in normal conversation. We are all of us consumed by the urgent.

Now and then, to achieve the success we desire, we need to step back and pose questions like this one, to get at the important but not urgent info that is there for the asking.

By Noah Blumenthal, founder and CEO of SavvyRoo, Wall Street Journal bestselling author, and ukulele enthusiast.