Questions to Facilitate Collaboration

Collaborating effectively requires helping others. And helping others requires compassion, which in turn means learning about who they are and what they want. So in order to help my clients, at the start of each relationship, I devote two or three hours to asking the following questions:

  • What are your proudest accomplishments and biggest disappointments?
  • Which activities energize you and which drain you?
  • How do other people describe your strengths and weaknesses?
  • What are your near-term and long-term goals?
  • What challenges are you facing? What keeps you up at night?
  • If you died tomorrow, what would you want your legacy to be?

Over my 15-plus years in coaching, I have learned that everyone has a compelling story, complete with passions, setbacks, victories, and dreams, and a cast of supporting characters. The more I ask and listen with an attitude of curiosity and anticipation, the more I learn.
So do yourself and your colleagues a favor by investing the time to see others for who they truly are — their splendors as well as their shortcomings. Pick the person who is causing you the most angst. Schedule coffee or lunch with him or her and say that you want to get to know them better. Don’t talk business. Ask questions, reflect on what you hear, share a bit of yourself, and dig in and keep asking questions until you feel your heart changing. You won’t want to do this. Do it anyway. Push aside your doubts and your negative mental models and give it a try. Repeat the process with the next person on your list. And continue to do so until your list includes only psychopaths or narcissists.

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