The common mistake bosses make — and a tip to avoid it

First-time managers and seasoned executives alike often make the same management mistake.

That is, many leaders tend to make directive statements as opposed to asking employees for their input. While giving direction is a central element of leadership, openness to ideas from direct reports is equally important, according to the Harvard Business Review. Specifically, leaders should engage employees and gain their trust by asking them open-ended questions.

How can a boss measure how this type of communication? Here's a tip: The ratio of the amount of times a leader asks an open-ended question to the amount of time he or she makes a directive statement should be high, often somewhere around 10 to 1, according to HBR.

Why is this an effective leadership strategy? The nature of an open-ended question prompts the respondent to think carefully and articulate an answer. It requires motivation and investment in whatever project, responsibility or problem he or she is working on. Unlike closed-ended "yes" or "no" questions, open-ended questions promote conversation, which facilitates bonding and trust.

It is important to ensure open-ended questions don't lead or hint at what the "right" answer should be. The point of asking such questions is to help the manager gather important information from his or her direct reports about the challenges, obstacles and opportunities they face. Furthermore, when direct reports are given the opportunity to voice their concerns, they can see that their thoughts and opinions are valued and respected, which enhances productivity and satisfaction at work, according to HBR.

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