The toughest lesson I’ve learned as a supervisor was to avoid stating my opinion and ask a question instead.

In June of 2012 I took a new job and had a team of 7 direct reports. During one of the first meetings I had with my team we were discussing the process used to respond to client voice mail. At the time all calls were answered by an automated system. We were meeting because over the last several weeks we had customer complaints that calls were not being returned and appointments were not being scheduled. Was this the fault of the system or was one of the team not doing their job?

I began the meeting by outlining what I thought was the solution. No discussion took place. Everyone said – OK that’s what we will do. The problem was I didn’t know all the steps involved. A better course of action would have been to open the meeting with a probing question. Probing questions start with what as opposed to why. When you start a conversation with a what question it allows people to open up and share their experience and ideas. When you start with a why question it puts people on the defensive. We did resolve the issue, but it took a couple more meetings and a few more customer complaints. We would have solved the problem sooner had I started with a question to solicit input from the team and not my opinion about what needed to be done.

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