“The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge,” Thomas Berger said.
If I could go back in time and tell my new college grad self what the secret to a rocket ship career is, it would simply be this: Ask More Questions. Ask them of your managers, the peers who work closest to you, and anyone whom you admire and feel they have something to teach you. The best mentorship relationships start from a good, earnest question. Which ones specifically? My new book, The Making of a Manager, goes into great details about the questions that new leaders should ask themselves and their reports. Here is a summary of the top 10.
1. Where have I had the most impact over the past few months, from your perspective?
Virginia Woolf once said, “Without self awareness we are as babies in the cradle.” Self-awareness is understanding the extent to which your own perceptions of yourself — what you’re good at, what your growth areas are, how you’re progressing and learning — matches reality and what everyone else thinks. Most of the time, a gap exists due to well-documented human biases that tell us we’re better at certain things than we actually are, or due to our scathing internal critic that can be much harder on ourselves than others.
The easiest way to develop self-awareness is to regularly ask others for honest feedback, which is harder than it sounds because it requires vulnerability. What if the feedback is critical or not what you expect? That’s why I like this question. It’s the most positive framing of feedback, and therefore the easiest way to ease yourself into the habit of asking. Are there things you’re proud of that others are noticing as well? Or do your peers have a different view of what you’ve done that’s most impactful? This is a great question for your manager, as well as practically any peer.