Tag Archives: value

The Value of a Question

“Bring value to the decision making and problem solving of my team. Easy to say, but how do you do that?” Jeanine protested.

“Look, I don’t even work here. You call me in as a consultant, because you are having difficulty with something. Do I come in here and tell you what to do, how to do your job?” I asked.

“No, you’re right, you don’t work here. You may be familiar with our systems, but you don’t know any of the real technical stuff. You couldn’t begin to tell me how to do my job,” Jeanine smiled.

“I agree. But you call me in, nevertheless. Would you say I bring value to your problem solving and decision making?”

“Yes, or I wouldn’t have called you,” she flatly stated.

“But, I don’t tell you what to do?” I repeated.

“No.” Jeanine’s eyes darted to the ceiling.

“So, how do I do that? I don’t tell you what to do, yet, somehow, I bring value to your decision making.”

“Well, you ask a lot of questions,” Jeanine blurted.

“So, to clarify, I don’t bring value by telling you what to do, but I bring value by asking questions?”

“You’re telling me,” Jeanine started slowly, “that I don’t bring value to my team by telling them what to do, but that, as a manager, I bring value by asking questions.”

Management is a Contact Sport

From the Ask Tom mailbag:

I have a manager who wants to work from home. Have you ever seen any statistics about productivity of people working from home? Does it work? Or is something lost?

The first two words from the mouth of any good consultant are, “It depends.”

Working from home works for some people, for some it doesn’t. The problem with most studies, designed or cited, is they are biased to provide a great article in a magazine about alternative methods of productivity.

One of the most powerful time management tools has to do with getting uninterrupted time for work that requires focus. Working from home can provide that time.

But what is the work of a manager? A manager is that person in the organization held accountable for the output of the team. The most important work of a manager is assembling the team, assigning the roles (and tasks in those roles), coaching behaviors, setting the context for the team and measuring output. Management is a contact sport.

Steve Jobs, designing his building, placed all the restrooms in the front part of the building, so that at least for some portion of the day, people were forced to intermingle. He knew that collaboration was paramount, people being in the same space, talking with each other, out of their cubicles. Building cooperation, team culture and team spirit is difficult to do from home. This is not a rah-rah concept. Team spirit is not the goal, but team spirit is required to gain collaboration, innovation, adaptation, awareness.

Individual output of anything truly great, is a myth. The real work of a manager is coordinating all that individual direct output into organizational throughput. Management is a contact sport. Tough to do from home.

The Value in a Manager’s Role

“What do you mean, bring value?” Joan asked. “Sounds easy to say, but I don’t know what you mean. How does a manager bring value to the problem solving and decision making in the team?”

“Do you bring value by telling people what to do?” I asked.

Joan sat back, looking for the odd angle in the question. “No,” she replied.

“You and I are sitting here talking,” I nodded. “And in our conversation, am I directing you, telling you how to be a manager?”

Again, the answer was “No.”

“And would you say that our conversations are valuable, valuable to you, in your role, as a manager?”

Joan followed the nod. “Yes,” she said slowly.

“I am not telling you what to do, yet, am I bringing value to the conversation?” I could see Joan making a leap in her mind to follow. “How am I doing that? If I am not telling you what to do, what kinds of sentences am I using?”

“Questions,” she responded. “You are not telling me what to do. You are asking questions and listening. And your questions are bringing value to the decisions I have to make and the problems I have to solve.”