There’s a simple tactic I’ve fallen in love with. Something I’ve often done in the past subconsciously, but just recently identified as an actual thing.

I hand out layups. 

I’ve worked in a digital environment for a long time, so I’ve picked up a thing or two. I know enough to know that things always change in digital, so the minute you think you’re an expert at something, you probably aren’t anymore. But besides being an avid continuous learner, I’m comfortable with my base level of digital understanding.

Still, I love to ask questions, even if I am fairly certain of the answer. Why? Because it gives the people in my organization a chance to shine.

But not all questions are created equal. I’ve seen a lot of bad in practice, where a senior manager (I only bestow the word leader when earned) will ask questions to try to catch people off guard. Questions not in the spirit of curious learning, but intended to make the questioner look smart, presumably by stumping the recipient. Questions that kill a culture.

The questions I love to ask are designed to build, and perhaps even risk myself looking stupid to give my team members a chance to shine. I’ll use a recent digital strategy meeting as an example.

The topic of SEO came up, which I know enough about to give a 20-second overview (and a quick Google search could have confirmed the bits I wasn’t 100% sure of). I certainly knew enough about SEO for the stakeholders in the meeting. But I also knew that our SEO specialist, Mario, was on the call, and Mario has forgotten more about SEO than I’ll ever know. 

So I asked Mario if he was able to clarify our SEO strategy. And sure enough, he shut the topic down in the next 20 seconds, giving everyone on the call full confidence in our direction.

(It is important to know your team members well before doing this, though, especially when working with people from different backgrounds. Until you are sure someone is comfortable, it’s always worth giving them a heads up).

Besides giving Mario some visibility, this also signals to everyone else on the call (especially more junior team members) that it’s perfectly okay to ask questions. And over time, as everyone gets their chance to shine and build credibility, it makes the team more engaged, and fearless, and ultimately drives growth. There’s a selfish angle for me, too: it feels good, to catch all of those good vibes.


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