It is not the answer that enlightens but the question. ~ Eugene Ionesco
In observing my days I notice that almost every interaction with my team either presents or invites a question. Acts of creativity, problem solving, vision, strategy…almost everything we do in leadership is built on questions and the quality of our leadership may be bound to the process we employ to reach the answers.
As leaders our first temptation is to tell.
This temptation comes from old paradigms that leaders must know, (or at least pretend to know), the answers. Or perhaps from the fear that the person in front of us might not come up with the “right” answers if left to their own devices. You know, “if you want something done right you have to do it yourself”. Then there is the ever-present pressure to keep things moving. The thought might be that it’s easier to just tell them what to do and get it over with than spend time working through a series of questions or investing in dialogue. All of these “stories” we tell ourselves can result in behaviors that rob energy, creativity and motivation from your team and diminish your influence as a leader.
Questions are powerful tools in the hands of skillful leader.
Want better outcomes? Ask better questions. Not only the questions that help someone solve a problem but also questions that encourage others to engage and explore. It is very easy to drift into telling. Asking good questions requires that we are mindful and self-aware.
Here are five questions I have found useful when I want to invite others into the leadership process.
- How can I help?
This is not to diminish the individual’s ability or assume ownership of the topic but an offer to be a resource. In essence, the leader is shifting to the role of follower.
- How do you see this?
Considering asking people how they “see it” rather than what they “think” about a topic. Seeing invites perspective and creativity whereas “thinking” is a measure of intelligence or judgement.
- What else is possible?
Open the door to different points of view. Think about what is “possible” rather than what is “missing”. It’s easy for group think to lead to a quick diagnosis without considering other options.
- When can we start?
Sometimes people just need the invitation to go make it happen. Instead of giving them “permission” give them a challenge.
- What did you learn?
Too often the question is “what went wrong” which leads to deflecting instead of reflecting. And don’t forget to ask this question when the outcome is success. The opportunity is the same.
This is a very short list of questions and there are probably many more that can be put into practice to build our leadership effectiveness. So here is a question for you…
- What questions would you add to this list?
Lets learn together.