Aloha, let’s manage with aloha: Work well, live well.

Last week we talked about what employees need to learn from their managers. What can managers learn from employees? Virtually everything they need to know about the things which affect the productivity of the business they manage. Whether you are the employee or the manager, I’d wager your list of learning nuggets would be a long one.

What I’d like to offer you today instead, is another tool on HOW managers can learn what their employees know (footnote below). This tool is something we know of in managing with aloha as the Attitude of Q. & D. This is the attitude that Q.&A.’s are not good enough where you work: Question and Answer gets replaced with Question and Dialogue.

These are the implicit expectations of Dialogue:

There’s potentially more than one answer to any question,
Those answers best come from more than one person,
In responses, pieces of an answer, and the beginnings of an answer are okay,
Weighing in on a question reveals more possibility when it is collaborative process.

The best answers and the right answers can be elusive things in companies. One nagging reason for this is that best answers remain hidden behind the ones we’re too quick to settle for. They arrive in conversations with the culprits of “the way we’ve always done it,” “what the boss will probably want,” and “yeah, that’ll be good enough.” As managers, our job is to dig deeper, and to reveal all the options until we arrive at the best one.

The good news is that so many of these gems can be readily found in the collective intelligence of our people. How do you mine those gems? By learning to ask better questions, and then creating an atmosphere where dialogue is always expected to follow sincerely inquisitive questions (as opposed to leading questions). You want the synergistic effect where 1 + 1 can equal 3—and usually does.

This means more than the elementary phrasing of “open-ended questions.” It means that most everything at work worth improving and building on can be questioned. It means asking questions when the timing is right for exploratory back and forth dialogue. It means welcoming an alternative that may differ from yours, and being willing to see this happen more often than not. It means getting creative. It means admitting you don’t have all the answers, and you don’t pretend that you do.

“This may sound a bit out there, but what if we ______? What do you suppose is the best and worst that could happen?”
“______ is always a lengthy process for us. Do you know of any time-wasters, redundancy, or unnecessary steps we may be taking with this?”
“What’s been your experience with ______. What have you noticed about ______?
“I’m stuck. I need a new idea with ______. Can you help me?”
“What do you think?”
“What do you think?”
“What do you think?”

One more very important thing: It means never testing people in those situations where there is just one answer, and you have to require compliance (think safety, think legality, think core values).

More on September Learning right here on Lifehack.org with me, every Thursday of this month. On every other day, you can visit me on www.ManagingWithAloha.com. Aloha,
Rosa Say

Previous Thursday Column: 5 Things Employees Need to Learn—from You.
Footnote: The first tool I’d mentioned was The Daily Five Minutes.
Reference: Managing with Aloha

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