Asking vendors partnership-promoting questions

As I closed my Q&A with Gary Cohen, I asked about working with oursourced resources.   Service and technology providers are integral parts of many projects, but too often I see them treated like arms-length vendors rather than true partners. 

  • Crossderry: What kind of questions should we ask consultants and vendors to reinforce to them — and to other stakeholders — that we are all in this together?
  • Gary Cohen: To encourage partnership with consultants, I recommend asking the following questions:
    * What risks are there to you if the project fails?
    * What opportunity costs are you giving up in order for us to work together?
    * What would like to hear me say to you a month after the project has been completed? What praise, in other words, would signify the optimal outcome?
    * What might prevent you from hearing that praise?
    * What can I do to help you achieve the optimal outcome?

Help others answer “their” questions

Placing yourself in another’s shoes is one of the most effective ways to confront reality.  I particularly like  Gary Cohen‘s take on how you can use the right questions to not only express empathy, but to also increase accountability (from my Q&A with Gary, author of JUST ASK LEADERSHIP: Why Great Managers Always Ask the Right Questions.

  • Crossderry:  I like the distinction you’ve made between questions that answer “your” questions — i.e., questions where you own the decision — and asking questions that help others answer “their” questions.  Can you talk more about such questions and how they can be used to reinforce accountability?
  • Gary Cohen: One of the most important questions leaders can ask is, “Whose decision is it?” When leaders allow job descriptions to determine decision-makers, not rank, decisions are usually made by the most informed party, and everyone must take ownership of their work. Blame and credit are easy to assess, in these instances. If, on the other hand, leaders make others’ decisions, they take away accountability from coworkers. Blame and credit are harder to assess, and it takes longer for new leaders to emerge because there’s less incentive to take ownership of their work.
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