The Question Method – Professional Growth Systems

What is the Question Method

Make a shift from the traditional supervisor role as overseer and evaluator to a new role as a performance coach and partner for high performance.

Likely 80% or better of your employees are willing and able to move to high performance if coached well. The remainder were either not good hires or are struggling at this point to perform well for reasons you can’t easily influence. Assume that the employee wants to perform well until proven wrong based not on how they are performing but why. You will determine the why using The Question Method.

Applying The Question Method requires the following steps:

  1. Assessing and communicating current performance against standards
  2. Determining if and how improved performance can be achieved
  3. Developing a plan of action for coach and employee to either a) achieve performance goals or 2) transition of employee to an organization/position for which better suited
  4. Executing and monitoring progress on the plan

The Pre-Conditions

To make the shift, both you and employee will need to establish true relationship, strengthen trust, get to honest/open communication and re-define roles. Likely no small challenge given your history together and the employee’s experience with other supervisors or authority figures. But, without these pre-conditions, you won’t get true answers to the questions and will be developing an action plan based on false assumptions.

This is how to achieve the pre-conditions:

1. Establish Relationship

Being in relationship means that a change in the condition of one party impacts the other party.  The change is not transactional, i.e. you get something and thus I get something.  Rather, it is more emotional, e.g. your success is my success, your pain gives me pain, your struggles are my struggles.  What happens to you, impacts me.  Employee doing well makes supervisor look good is not it because in essence it is all about the supervisor.  It is one-sided.

The challenge for technical superstars moving into leading others is that their values need to shift.  The focus needs to move from the work to the people doing the work.  Caring about and developing those doing the work will lead to high performance.  Making the work the focus will not get you to the same ends because you don’t understand the “why” behind the performance level.This shift begins with genuine interest in the life/success of employees.  Celebrating their success, knowing what they care about, knowing their personal goals, their fears, what barriers they face in achieving high performance and how developments outside of work are impacting performance.  To do this, ask them questions, including those in TheQuestionMethod, to create mutual understanding.

2. Open and Honest Communication

Vital to any partnership is honesty about how it is going and what corrections are needed.  Traditionally, supervisor-employee communications have been largely one-way; supervisor to employee.  The employee is expected to make corrections dictated by the supervisor.  Corrections by the supervisor are not considered.  Hardly a partnership.

Again, this shift entails overcoming years of engrained behavior on both sides.  To get there, you need to make believable the shift you want to make and why.  What is it that is prompting you to move to partnership?  If the honest answer is because the organization has asked it of you, you won’t get there. A shift in values and beliefs must be seen to be believed and trusted.  Creating High Performers or your own supervisor could have inspired you or brought about reflection on your previous role and methods, but the employee is going to need to feel the change, more specifically, the emotion behind the change, for it to be believed.What to reflect on?  Have you enjoyed supervision?  Why or why not?  Is your relationship with your employees satisfying? Why or why not? What do you see as the purpose and goal of your role as supervisor?  Is that what the organization asks of you?  Is it what employees need and want? Is overseer and judge a fulfilling role for you? Is what you are doing now adding value to the organization and to the employees working for you?Why is this a pre-condition?  Because if you are not honest and vulnerable, the employee won’t be. If the goal is to get honest feedback on how you can help, the employee needs to feel that your learning what you haven’t done or not done right is more important to you than false allegiance or respect for your position power.After reflection, prepare your presentation re. the shift you want to make in the relationship and why.  Then, read the body language as it will tell you if you have made the emotional connection, are believable and to be trusted with the truth.

3. Redefine Roles
As coach, your role is to facilitate individual success which leads to team success.  It means understanding a player’s goals, strengths, weaknesses, motivations and needs.  Then, putting the player in the position to succeed.  Great coaches are able to get players to a level of performance not achieved under other coaches.  In some cases, that involves rehabilitating their motivation to do well. Skill development, decision-making, confidence are the building blocks of performance and great coaches craft unique development approaches to each player.   Coaching employees in the work setting is no different.

At the core, the shift is from the employee serving the coach to the coach serving.  The coach understands that if each “player” does his or her job well, the team succeeds.  The coach also understands that enabling poor performers to continue letting down the team leads to declining performance of all players and losses.

How to get there?  You have to understand each player.  Are they still motivated to succeed?  If not, why not? What are their goals?  What do they need to reach those goals? What part of those needs are being met by you and the organization now and what parts are not?  How do they best learn? What best instills confidence and recognizes success?

In short, your role is to KNOW and act on what you know.

The employee’s role is to be open and honest about their motivation/satisfaction, their development needs and how well you are meeting them.

After that, it is about both of your executing on a plan of action you agree to. Worst case scenario, the plan involves moving them out of a position or conditions where they are not able to succeed.  Most likely scenario is a plan for a series of coaching steps to get them what they need to succeed where they are.