Ultimate Question of Team Management
If you are a leader, then this is the simplest question that will get you the best results to keep your teams working well together. Ask it, and your team will love you. Skip it and you might never know about how bad the team is.
Did you hire the right person?
In February 2007 a manager asked me for some advice. A few weeks prior he had hired a new person and thought they were a great fit into the office. Even though this new person was hired to take the pressure off, it didn't seem to make any difference. The manager was asking me how he could update the procedures to make things work more efficiently. As usual, I asked him a question in response, "What do your team members say?"
"I don't know," He replied. "I've not asked them."
I looked at him, he stared back. Then he got up and started asking people in the office. Five minutes later he returned with the answer. The new guy was just not working out.
Ask this question when you add a new person to your team. This question will quickly identify if the new person fits within the team, is disruptive, supportive, negative or positive for the team. The question will allow you to find out if you made the right decision in hiring the new person faster than any other method I know. Discover if they really can integrate into and improve the group dynamics.
Use it as a pressure gauge
Ask the question at least once a week as a gauge on how well the team is working together. Ask it of different people within the group - as each person will have a different answer. With each answer, you'll be able to build a complete picture of the social dynamics within the team.
Build a complete picture of your Group Dynamics
It is a very simple question with many many answers. Each time you ask the question, the answers will be different. Ask it when the group is under pressure, ask it when they have free time. Ask when a new person joins the team or when someone leaves.
I know I've labored the point somewhat, but I don't think I can express any better how important this question is to running an effective team. The question can be asked in any form, but the most common is:
"What do you think about [insert the name of another member of the team]?"
Encourage their self interest
Make it clear when you ask the question, that you want their personal opinion. Some will tell you that so-and-so is disruptive, argumentative and difficult to deal with. This information is pure gold! If everyone in the team says the same, you may well have a problem. If only one person says it, you have something different.
Ask them all!
In July of 2007 I had one manager almost destroy his team by asking this question only to one member. The team saw this, and reacted like most people - by ostracizing the 'snitch'. The team started having secret meetings and private email communications. Make sure you ask every member of the team, about every other member of the team. If you skip one, you run the risk of causing a similar situation.