How to use open questions effectively with your staff

An 8-part self-guided series for small to medium business owners and their leadership teams.

If you believe that your people need to be a source of competitive advantage then this read is for you.

There is often a debate about the greatest of all time in various sports.  

I’ve been watching The Last Dance on Netflix, which has hit number one as the most watched documentary at the moment.  The show chronicles Michael Jordan and the 1998 Chicago Bulls in their quest for winning their third championship in a row and sixth in eight years.

This program has reignited the debate about who is the greatest basketball player of all time, which most people say is still Michael Jordan.  Although in recent times, some had been pushing for LeBron James as the greatest.  The eras were very different though.  The competition was different, the way the game was played was different and the lens was different. 

Take cricket for example.  If we compare eras, David Boon in the 1980s didn’t need to be an athlete to be great, but if he were born in 1990 instead of 1960, we would either not know his name at all or be witnessing a slimmed-down version of Boonie.  In the AFL, the top 10 highest single player, single-game goal scoring records are from 1995 and earlier. This is because the game has moved away from scoring through one full forward. The best performance of the 100m sprint in the entire year across all events in 1985 was Carl Lewis at 9.98 seconds.  He would have come 7th at the 2016 Rio Olympics.  The list can go on…

The debate about who the better player was from different decades will always remain a debate, because you cannot compare eras of sporting greats.  This is simply because people get better and the game changes. It’s not that people wanted to run slower back in the 80s.  It was also not that it was considered a good idea to have a beer gut as a professional cricketer.  It’s that people got away with it because the standards were different.  

How is this relevant to you?

The game you’re in is also changing and your competition is getting better.  The year 2020 seemed like a long way away not that long ago.  You can’t expect to be successful when you are doing what you or your competitors did 30 years ago, 20 or even 10 years ago.  And if your people practices haven’t substantially improved since back then, you will be left behind.  On top of that, the rate of change externally over these past few years has been exponential. Take the Gig Economy, the fourth industrial revolution, the four different generations in the workforce and now this global crisis that has us all working from home – your playing field is starting to look very different.

In some sports, players performing like they did only 5 years ago would see them benched. Similarly, in business and with your people performance, if you play like you did back in 2019, then as we enter into the post-COVID-19 era you could get benched.

You can no longer afford to be left behind if you want to survive this next wave of change and exploit the opportunities presented to move ahead of your competitors.

I’ve had the pleasure of working with business leaders and senior executives structuring, hiring and building high performing teams as a part of their strategy. The businesses I worked with who are challenging their industries or those offering premium products, shared a common belief: the growth of their business and their competitive difference cannot work without their people delivering outcomes aligned to their strategy

These are the people who:

  • Consistently produce your desired outcomes towards your strategy.
  • Genuinely and pro-actively display behaviours in support of the company, their own learning and to help their colleagues.
  • Are committed and aligned to the business for the foreseeable future

We call them high-performers.

You’re probably sensing that where I’m heading is that people are a pivotal part of your play in this changing landscape.  But I’m not just talking in the generic sense that you hear all the time like that “people are your greatest asset” or “there is no business without people”.  These statements don’t get to the heart of what you need to do.  Sometimes, some people are your greatest liability.  Sometimes, your business is better off with less people. You cannot have a motherhood statement approach to your people strategy and expect it to deliver a competitive advantage. You need to act with precision. 

This is an 8-part series that’s going to help you navigate the transition back to work after this global crisis, and then rebuild and position your business to win. 

We’ll delve into the prominent questions that are in every business leader’s minds: “we’re returning to work after COVID, now what?”,  “what’s really changed?”,  “what will remain the same?” and others.

I will answer all of the above questions so that you can hopefully avoid the pitfalls and take advantage of the opportunities. 

I’ll also remind you of the three biggest trends influencing humans at work that should not be forgotten, simply because we are dealing with a global pandemic. 

The name of the series, Building a High Performing Team on Purpose, comes from knowing that sometimes a manager of a team or business has an accidental high performing team.  As Carl Sloane from Harvard Business School once said,

One of the biggest mistakes a leader can make is “confusing the size of the enterprise or success of the enterprise with the individual’s persona.

There are managers who inherit an already high performing team, only to fail next time when they haven’t had that head start. There are those who have had fortunate timing resulting in their numbers being inflated.   

The series is about giving you deliberate actions to take that allow you to repeatedly build a high performing team, no matter what the starting position is or how lucky you have been that year.

Every Thursday for the next 8 weeks, we’ll cover one part of the series:

  1. Transitioning after a COVID-19: what are the small, medium and big challenges ahead?
  2. Your Business Strategy: is it still relevant?
  3. Your Organisational Design: is it right to support your strategy?
  4. Your Leadership: are your leaders equipped to deal with the challenges they are about to face?
  5. Your Talent Management: do you have the right talent and are you nurturing them to strive?
  6. Your Learning and Development: how should you invest in your people?
  7. Your Employee Value Proposition: is your EVP compelling and real, in order to attract and retain talent?
  8. And finally, how to bring it all together so that the sum of each part provides greater combined value overall.

I’ll share stories, lessons and offer you guides to help you self-assess your business and how to think through some of the challenges ahead.

Stay tuned.

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