For many years I worked as an interim manager. Looking back I’m grateful for all these great people who I met during those 6 -12 months when I was working in their organization before I moved on to the next organization. I’m very grateful for helping them out in sometimes difficult and stressful situations.

No matter what kind of organization or assignment, I always used the same method. Curious? Well here it is.

Step 1.

My first priority was to meet with all employees and other stakeholders to analyze the situation. Those meetings were structured. Before each meeting I sent the person who I was going to meet a few questions.

Chip Bergh, chief executive of Levi Strauss & Company, has that same work method. When he started working at Levi Strauss he met with the top 60 people in the company. Before each meeting he sent them questions. His questions are quite similar to the questions that I always ask.

These are his questions:

1 – What are the three things you think we have to change?

2 – What are the three things that we may have to keep?

3 – What do you most want me to do?

4 – What are you most afraid I might do?

(The New York Times, June 11, 2017)

Great questions. By sending those questions before the meeting you make clear what you want to address. This takes away some of the nervousness that people may have when meeting the new manager for the first time. You also treat and honor each person in the same way. And the only thing you need to do is listen to the answers. Listening without judgment. Listening to understand.

Step 2.

Only after all that listening you formulate your reply and actions. You communicate the reason why you can’t change what they would like to change. Or you take care that it is on the change agenda. Whatever you choose, take care that you communicate your choice.

Simple? Yes, it is. But effective methods don’t have to be complicated. You can use this method in many circumstances. Just change the questions. Try it.