MSMP 94: Alain Hunkins on Asking Better Questions

My guest for this episode of the Mads Singers Management Podcast is Alain Hunkins who has trained individuals and teams in 2000+ businesses in over 25 countries over the last two decades. He is originally from NYC but currently lives in the Netherlands. Fascinatingly, Alain’s curiosity about how people interact with each other is informed by an undergraduate degree in Literature with a minor in psychology and a graduate degree in…theater!

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That fact kicked off our conversation, as Alain pointed out that no matter what industry you are in, you’re ultimately in the people business, so it’s less important to be subject matter experts in particular industries and more important to be asking the right questions. One of the first ones that Alain usually leads with is, “What’s the biggest challenge you are facing right now?”

One of the ways that you can keep track of the challenges your team is facing is by having consistent one-on-ones. By building relationships with people through these regular meetings, you will find out what makes them tick, what they are passionate about, and most importantly, how you can help them. Alain noted that empathy with your people and their situations can lead to performance increases as high as 40%! As I often say, as an individual, your work is judged by what you can achieve, but as a manager, you are judged by what you inspire and motivate in others.

Alain agreed, noting that developing people has a multiplier effect, whereas simply “fixing” things is just an additive effect: you get fewer results, slower.

Alain contends that another important activity for those in management is a specific time set aside for deep work. Those who are willing to shut out distractions and focus on the most important things consistently make the biggest strides. That habit won’t just matter for yourself: it will have positive ripple effects on your team.

We also discussed the importance of proactively asking for feedback and the proper (and only) answer to give when receiving it: “Thank you.”

Msmp 94 Alain Hunkins

There are so many other great points Alain shared during our conversation: check out the episode, you’ll learn a lot. I sure did!

Key Learning:
  1. Alain shares one of the first questions he usually poses to clients – 3:54
  2. Alain warns on the temptation of being “fixer-in-chief” – 7:54
  3. Mads discusses the key transition that newly promoted managers have to make – 10:30
  4. Mads and Alain note what message gets sent by the length of the notice you give – 13:53
  5. Alain discusses a key shortcoming of clients when they first start getting coached by him – 15:20
  6. Alain talks about why habits aren’t just for ourselves – 20:10
  7. Alain explains the first two categories he looks at when looking to improve the performance of managers – 21:15
  8. Alain shares why good leaders ask for feedback – 26:05
  9. Mads and Alain share the only correct answer when receiving feedback – 29:22
Resources Mentioned:
  1. The Leadership Challenge by Kouzes and Posner
Connect with Alain Hunkins:
  1. Cracking the Leadership Code
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