Gaining insight into how an individual is likely to behave can be very valuable to a manager. This is especially true when the individual may be new, shifting roles or starting an important project. Imagine if you could gain real insight into what they’re likely to do before they start. I’m not talking about the usual stuff we’re all taught to say to sound impressive but to gain real, insight. It would be like ‘unwrapping the Christmas presents before Christmas’, you won‘t have to wait to see how it turned out or find 6 weeks down the track that they are way off the mark.

I have used the following five questions extensively to great success and received some breathe taking responses. Don’t be fooled by the simplistic nature of the questions, they can cut through glib responses and can provide compelling and predictive insights.

The key to maximising the information from these questions is to remember;

The questions are subjective and from the responses you can gain an insight into the motives, decision making and actions of an individual.

You must listen without judgement. Don’t be fishing for the ‘correct’ answer otherwise you’re likely to miss critical clues which provide behavioural insights into how people will perform when you’re not watching.

What fears, doubt and concerns do you have about your new role / project /opportunity? Unless the person has done the same role with the same people in the same organisation before it would be reasonable to expect they have some fears, doubts or concerns. People who answer this question with ‘none’ should ring the alarm bell around; over confidence, denial, or impression management.

It is better to have an individual be honest and courageous in their response rather than too polished and untruthful. How great would it be to have someone open and honest right up front?
What does success of your role / project / opportunity look like, describe it to me? What we are asking an individual here is subjectively what are they trying to do, what’s the outcome, what does the end game look like. While this may seem very obvious, as you listen to the individual you’ll have them telling you not only what their goals are but also what they value and don’t value. Also listen for what they are not saying. Is there a critical piece of the role missing in what they’re not saying?

What do you need to do to enable that success? This question is an action based question which is designed to identify what action an individual will specifically take. While the question may seem simple it can be amazing the response that people provide. As with the other responses you must take the response literally while also listening for what’s missing.

What do I (the manager) or the organisation need to do to enable that success? This question directly addresses partnering, co-operation, independence and self-reliance. Listen to the answer you get. Their first response is very likely what the person will be asking for and how they will work with you and others. I’ve heard responses from “Nothing, just leave me alone and I’ll get it done” right through to “Well when the organisation does …………………………………..then I’ll be able to get the results”. Again listen for the clues around teaming and collaboration, don’t judge.

What decisions / judgments have you already made about me (the manager) / the, role, project, organisation? This is a ‘whites of the eyes’ test of honesty. Can the individual be honest in a potentially high risk situation? If they can, bravo, you have someone who is courageous and probably values honesty? If not, this may not be the end of the world but a potential indication how under certain circumstances they may protect their position.

Don’t be fooled by the questions disarming simplicity as its part of the power. When you’re listening without judgement, you’ll be amazed at what you’ll be told about values, beliefs and future action.

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