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How to Empower Employees by Asking Questions

Help employees solve their own problems, what you can learn from Barbara Corcoran's cross-dressing party, rewarding failure and more: our best tips of the week.
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A roundup of the best tips of the week from

As a manager, asking questions can be a powerful means of focusing an employee's thoughts and encouraging him or her to come up with a solution independently. Socrates made the technique famous, allowing his listeners to reason out their own conclusions about life and the nature of things rather than imposing his own philosophy on them.

One experiment you can try is to spend an entire conversation asking only questions, says LeeAnn Renninger, director of professional-development organization LifeLabs. Rather than giving direct advice, phrase your statements as questions to lead your employees to a solution. Ask things like, "What are your thoughts on this so far? What have you tried? What options are you leaning towards?" The answer will often present itself. More: Why the Best Managers Ask the Most Questions

After working hard, play hard.
While building her real-estate empire, Barbara Corcoran became known for throwing wild parties for her employees and others. At one party, all the attendees were required to cross-dress. It's fine to be a hard-driving boss, but you have to provide ways for your staff to blow off steam -- preferably while bonding with each other. More: Barbara Corcoran on Ways to Build a Super-Charged Sales Force

Reward impressive failures.
Creative employees need to know that they are free to fail when they implement bold ideas. A particular idea may not work out, but the attempt is still worthwhile if it contributes to a culture of innovation. "Celebrate the effort and audacity to innovate," recommends James Berry, an entrepreneur and management professor at University College London. "That sends a message to employees that you're rewarding the mindset and the willingness to try to improve." More: How to Motivate Creative Employees

Provide calls to action in your mobile ads.
This isn't your grandfather's call to action: Whereas traditional online advertisements could do little more than send the user to a landing page, mobile ads can turn the click into a call to your reservation line or map directions to your business. Think about how to take advantage of the unique mobile environment when considering ads for it. As mobile ads account for a bigger percentage of total ad sales, the most successful brands will be doing just that. More: 5 Lessons in Local Mobile Advertising From Big Brands

Identify the employee traits you value before using peer reviews.
Peer reviews can be a valuable tool for assessing employee performance, but they won't help you much if you don't know what traits you need in your top performers. After all, a financial firm will want to encourage different traits than a sales business or a branding agency. Decide on these metrics first, then you'll know what questions to ask and what feedback to look for in employee responses. More: The Pros and Cons of Peer Review