Coaching tip: Ask questions PDF Print E-mail
El Lechero Dairy Basics - Management
Written by Robert A. Milligan   
Wednesday, 21 December 2011 12:03

el_english_badgeI have mentioned before that employees are special because they are human beings – they can think, speak and feel. The challenge – and it is often a big challenge – is that employees often seem reluctant to use these special capabilities.

They appear to be reticent to think, unwilling to speak up with ideas or concerns, and incapable of being passionate about the farm business.

This reluctance typically has two sources. First, our society (incorrectly) instills in employees that they should be accommodating at work: “Keep your mouth shut;” “Don’t rock the boat.” Second, the actions of many, maybe most, supervisors reinforce this reluctance.

It is very easy to unintentionally reinforce this reluctance through impatience and a reliance on telling employees what to do.

One of the best ways to encourage employees to use those capabilities to think, speak and feel is to ask questions. It is logical for supervisors to want employees to use the thinking capability to make decision and the speaking capability by raising questions and concerns.

Questions like the following can encourage thinking and speaking:
•    What do you think?
•    Does this make sense to you?
•    Do you have any suggestions?
•    How would you do this?

These are great questions; however, they often bring disappointing results. Employees are still reluctant to think and speak. In this case perhaps we should focus on the “feeling” part.

I would suggest the key feelings are 1) trust with you the supervisor and other employees, and 2) ultimately passion for what your farm is working to accomplish. Let’s focus on trust.

One of the best and perhaps easiest ways to increase trust with most employees is to show that you are interested in him or her as a person. Again, asking questions is a great starting point.

I am not suggesting asking personal questions; rather questions as part of casual conversation, most likely while you are working together, that show you are interested in them and their interests.

These questions can lead to improvements in the thinking and speaking capabilities as well. One of my favorite quotes is from Marcus Buckingham; in describing great managing/supervising he states: “Discover what is unique about each person and capitalize on it.”

While asking questions to build this trust, you may garner information that enables you to reduce employees’ reticence to think, unwillingness to speak up with ideas or concerns, and reluctance to become passionate about the farm business.

Ask questions, give employees time to answer, and listenEL

—Excepts from Dairy Strategies LearningEdge Monthly e-newsletter.


Robert A. Milligan
Senior Consultant
Dairy Strategies, LLC


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