The Question New Managers Forget to Ask

You have a new hire—how will you set the right tone and gain understanding of how you’ll work together? new hire questions

Imagine you have two questions to choose from:

“How do you like to be managed?” Or “Tell me about the best boss you’ve ever had.”

Ask about the Best Boss.  The answer to the “Best Boss” reveals your employees’ preferences and often their values.  Listening carefully to their response gives you insight into how they like to be managed.

When I’ve asked this question in the past, responses include:

  • “I liked when my boss trusted me to get my work done.”
  • “My boss cared about me as a person. They assigned me projects that I was good at.”
  • “I like that my boss listened to my ideas and was honest when the ideas didn’t work.”

It’s not enough to ask one right question.  Listen for clues about how your style may click or conflict with their preferences.  With the employee above, I’d be sure to clarify how we can build trust together and determine how “honest” to be with feedback, I’m a very direct communicator and can occasionally come across as “too honest.”

Listening is not as easy as it sounds. Poor listening is the Common Cold of Leadership according to Daniel Goleman, psychologist and author of multiple books on Emotional Intelligence. The cure is creating a habit of mindfulness and “pay full attention to the person in front of you.”

So, use the Best Boss question personally or professionally.  Ask things like:

  • Tell me about the best restaurant you’ve been to
  • Tell me about your favorite vacation ever
  • Tell me about the best book you’ve read

Then, pay attention! Practice the first of the 6 skills of listening from Center for Creative Leadership’s Michael Hoppe. And determine where you’ll connect and how to avoid potential conflict.