How do you move toward tension in the workplace? I am writing about healthy tension of course. There are times when unbridled tension can lead to an unhealthy result – but that fear does not need to drive us to avoid the tension. One of the most effective and helpful ways to embrace tension is with questions. The following are questions I use to get the proverbial ball rolling.

With a Direct Report:

I begin with – I would like to enlist your help, would you answer a few questions for me?

  • If you were me, what would you do differently when I need to correct you about something?
    • Help me understand what you said, does that mean you want me to ________ ?
  • What are some things I do that you would say – We need more of that from you?
    • Does that mean you want me to _______ ?
  • What are some things I do that you would say – don’t help us move forward?
    • So when I do ________ you would say it has a negative impact?

With a Peer

I begin with – I am trying to develop more self-awareness, would you help me with a few questions?

  • As you see me interact with our team in the workplace:
    • What do I do that is not helpful?
      • So that means _________.
    • What do I do that you would say – Do more of this?
      • How would you recommend I proceed with that suggestion?
    • What is one thing I could do today that would make me a better leader?
      • Ask a question for clarity, if needed.

With your Boss

  • I begin with – I want to become more effective in the role you have assigned me, would you help me by answering a few questions?
    • If you were me – what would you do differently to make a bigger impact?
    • If you were me – what would you stop doing today?
    • If you were me – what else would you recommend I begin doing today?

WARNING – REFUSE TO BECOME DEFENSIVE.  If we become combative or defensive we will lose the growth opportunity.  Ask question to bring clarity for action, not because you know people like you to ask questions.  The purpose of opening up to honest feedback is to create a development culture. Once people see you desire development rather than hide from it you can take your communication and personal growth to the next level. Many times as I have asked for honest feedback from people, they begin to see feedback in a new light. They see it as a ladder to their future success rather than a hammer to beat them down and remind them of their past failures. Somehow, each of us must learn to embrace the tension of feedback.  On the next post, I will discuss creating and cultivating tension in meetings so we arrive at the best decisions.