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The Rapid-Fire Way Steve Jobs Got Employees to Tell Him What Was Wrong

Steve Jobs had a strategy to get feedback from his employees that allowed him to solve key problems.

 Justin Sullivan/Getty Images 

By Rachel Premack

  • Steve Jobs developed two questions to learn about problems at Pixar.
  • On Medium, San Francisco-based marketing professional Andy Raskin wrote that he adopted Jobs’ strategy to get more honest feedback.
  • Other leaders and leadership experts have recommended asking employees questions that can’t be answered with yes or no, so employees will feel compelled to give thoughtful responses.

Steve Jobs spent most of his time at Apple in the early 2000’s. But he wasn’t just leading the groundbreaking technology company — he was also a chairman and primary investor at Pixar.

So, when he met the team at Pixar, he would need to quickly understand what was happening there. Andy Raskin, a San Francisco-based strategic messaging professional, wrote about Jobs’ tactic in a Medium post.

Jobs would start by arranging sessions with Pixar’s different teams. Around a dozen people were in each meeting, Raskin wrote.

He would then single out a person in each session and say: “Tell me what’s not working at Pixar.”

The person would give their reply and Jobs would ask others if they agreed.

Then Jobs picked a new employee and say: “Tell me what’s working at Pixar.”

In each team session, Jobs would continue alternating between these two questions that until he felt he understood the problems that team faced.

Anything but ‘Any questions?’

Leaders know they need feedback. But few employees are willing to pipe up with their biggest complaints and challenges.

Anyone who’s ever been in a big meeting knows that upon hearing “Do you have any suggestions for improvement?” employees often respond with silence or a quick, cheery “Nope!”

Singling out employees in small groups and asking them thoughtful questions avoids the “no questions here” option.

But what are you supposed to ask?

Angie Morgan, Marine veteran and a coauthor of “Spark: How to Lead Yourself and Others to Greater Success,” suggested asking:

“Can you please share with me two things I’m doing really well in this circumstance and two areas where you think I can improve?”

And according to former Google and Apple executive Kim Scott, author of “Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity,” another good question is:

“Is there anything I could do or stop doing that would make it easier to work with me?”

Taking a page from Jobs, Raskin wrote that he tried asking:

“What is the thing I made most confusing today?”

Originally published at www.businessinsider.com

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