Be A Better Boss, Ask The Right Questions

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QUESTIONI don’t like to boss people around. I don’t get motivated by telling people what to do, I don’t take any pleasure in it. So I manage with curiosity, by asking questions.

In a typical day, I may have 50 conversations of some substance. But I so prefer hearing what other people have to say that I instinctively ask questions. If you’re listening to my side of a phone call, you may hear little but the occasional question.

Questions are a great management tool.

Asking questions elicits information, of course. Asking questions creates the space for people to raise issues they are worried about that a boss, or colleagues, may not know about. Asking questions lets people tell a different story than the one you’re expecting. Most important from my perspective, asking questions means people have to make their case for the way they want a decision to go.

MAKING THE CASE MEANS ANSWERING BIG QUESTIONS: WHY THIS PROJECT? WHY NOW? WHAT’S THE STORY?

The movie business is all about being able to “make your case.” With Splash, the first big movie I produced, about a mermaid of all things, I had to make my case hundreds of times over seven years. After 30 years of successfully making movies, that hasn’t changed. If you’re going to survive in Hollywood—and I think if you’re going to survive and thrive anywhere in business—you have to learn to “make the case” for whatever you want to do.

Making the case means answering the big questions: Why this project? Why now? Why with this group of talent? With this investment of money? Who is the audience? How will we capture that audience, that customer? And the biggest question of all: What’s the story? What’s this movie about? (Or, if you’re not in the entertainment business, what’s the story of this product? What’s this product about?)

Making the case also means answering the detail questions: Why these songs in that order on the soundtrack? Why that supporting actress? Why that scene?

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