Don’t attack the answer. I took the billers out to lunch six months ago. I created structure and questions. We went out and I said, ‘What do you think is working here? What do you think is not working here? What would you like to see changed? What would you like to see not changed?’
The thing to do is, when they answer you, if you don’t understand the answer, inquire until you understand the answer. But don’t attack the answer. Just say, ‘OK, that’s interesting. How would you change that?’
Don’t go after the person, don’t agree or disagree with them. You just want to uncover the information. Don’t evaluate it while you are in the conversation.
Use your resources. I do management by walking around, and some people hate it. I end up knowing what’s going on down at lower levels that sometimes their own directors and managers don’t know. I get a lot of informal information.
I bring that informal information back to the management team, and I say, ‘Hey, I saw this. Help me understand what’s going on here.’ I’m not spot-checking, but if you were to be cynical, you could say I was. I get data points.
I don’t need to know what people are thinking, but I want to listen and hear what they are saying.
Let your people decide. If you’re in a meeting, you could say, ‘This is what I think we should do.’ Or you could wait and let people talk, and if it’s pretty standard, they are all going to come to the same conclusion.
Once they have concluded what you were going to do, now you can say, ‘That’s something I absolutely support, and let’s move forward on it.’ Now it’s not your idea, it’s their idea.