The 3 Magic Questions Every Manager Should Know and Use

Results.com, now ResultsBI.com, used to have a free training video of The 3 Questions to be used in 1 on 1 meetings. Sadly, they’ve taken down the video lesson. It was a great resource showing The 3 Questions in action with actors using them and answering.

I will share with you these 3 “Magic” Questions. But first a little context.

Many employees and owners have had less than great experiences with managers in the past. When I recommend 1 on 1 meetings for clients, we often have to deal with these past experiences. Their context for 1 on 1 meetings with a manager or supervisor are generally negative. Most of the time when I ask why they had a 1 on 1 meeting with a manager or supervisor it often centers around 1 of 2 things. 1. They were in trouble/there was a problem. Or 2. It was about a raise or review. Both of these are anxiety ridden, and often negative experiences. They feel the same way they did when called to the Principal’s office, or when the lights come on in the rearview mirror.

No wonder they don’t want to institute 1 on 1 meetings with their staff. They hate them. They don’t want their team members to feel that way. And they do not want to be the Principal or the cop.

But try to envision a great coach, teacher, or mentor that you had along your own journey.  And then envision working to be “that guy” and not the cop or Principal. What if you could be that person for each member of your team? Having 1 on 1 meetings to coach, mentor, and support your employees can help create this relationship and change the perspectives on 1 on 1 meetings altogether.

The objective of the questions is to empower your people to assess challenges and come up with their own solutions. It is to get them to think and take ownership of their job and position on the team. Things will not always go right. You know that. It is how you deal with that that is important, even critical, to the relationship you have with your team members.

When something is not working, a goal is not met, a project is not on track, or something just didn’t go according to plan, try asking these 3 questions and see how it goes.

You will need to practice. Practice your tone. Practice wording them appropriately for the specific situation. And practice not jumping in too soon to answer or suggest for the person you are meeting with.

Here are the questions:

  1. What happened? (is happening?)
  2. What will you do over the next week to make it happen?
  3. What help or resources do you need from me to make it happen?

That’s it.

Let’s take them 1 at a time.

Here you are having them diagnose the problem and share the current status. 

1. What happened? (is happening?)

Here you are having them diagnose the problem and share the current status.

2. What will you do over the next week to make it happen?

Here you are asking them what THEY will do, what actions THEY will take, to get the desired result. Be patient here. Give time and space for them to think. And be careful about shooting down any solutions offered. Maybe you can ask to follow up or clarifying questions to help guide them, but you are nurturing their problem solving skills and willingness to put forth their ideas.

3. What help or resources do you need from me to make it happen?

Here you are supporting them. Even if the answer is “nothing”, you have offered. You are in their corner. You want them to succeed.

This isn’t usually the approach the Principal took, or the cop. You aren’t trying to catch them in the act and hand out speeding tickets. You are trying to support them in their success. When the players succeed, the team succeeds. When the team succeeds, the coach succeeds. It takes practice and effort, but you might be surprised at the results.

Good luck, Coach!


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