Ask colleagues questions that deepen your understanding of them as people.
When an experienced manager asked a team he inherited to share more about themselves, the exercise unearthed a surprise: “They’d known each other for three years and viewed one of their peers as extremely money-driven,” he explained. “But we found out that the reason she’s so money-driven is that she loves to give it to her community and those less fortunate.”
Few things, if any, can expose your assumptions about people more effectively than getting to know them better. To facilitate this on your team, you could ask your direct reports to fill out a “get to know you” worksheet. Consider going beyond the basics and asking about areas like:
Their personality. For instance, do they consider themselves an introvert or an extrovert, and in what situations? Truth is, few people are introverted or extroverted everywhere, even if that’s what their colleagues assume.
Their motivations. What drives them at work? Where do they see, or want to see, their impact? What about outside of work — their social causes, hobbies, families?
Of course, people change — as do their desires and expectations, so consider doing this exercise once or twice per year. And don’t forget about your peers, manager, and clients. Ask them questions about their backgrounds and interests over lunch, during breaks, or at the tail ends of meetings.