August 2015

Lead with Questions?

Do you lead by asking questions?  Do your questions stimulate new thinking, or help others to grow? 

Or do your questions communicate blame, or cause defensiveness?  Here's one I've recently heard, "Do any of you not know how to follow our guidelines?"  Or "Do you see what a mess you caused?" 

My leader clients intuitively know that it’s best to ask employees  to develop solutions through good thought-provoking questions intended to develop their staff...but are frequently caught between wanting to move quickly, and making sure employees are doing things the way the leader wants.  

Where’s the advantage in asking good questions?

The obvious benefits  are  potentially fresh and powerful ideas  -  plus the development that occurs as employees think and solve problems in new ways.   Clearly the time it takes to go through the process of solving a problem through employee input and discussion is well worth the effort the next time a similar situation occurs.  

Another, perhaps the more critical benefit of asking good questions is to learn more about underlying issues that may be preventing the achievement of successful results.  I encourage my clients to raise issues in staff meetings through questions, to allow for discussion of items not necessarily on the meeting agenda.  Open up the discussion on how things are going, and what’s challenging overall.  Many times just that one question opens the group to discuss the real but potentially invisible or underlying issues that are preventing the desired results.  The most critical part of this exercise is for the leader to refrain from providing answers.  Lose the phrase "if it were me I'd do......" Let the team think about their discussion and come to the next meeting with possible solutions or first steps.  

And finally, the benefit of leading by asking good questions models a behavior for your employees that lets them know it’s ok to ask questions, and to explore various solutions.  It demonstrates trust, support and an open discussion environment – all necessary for a team to function most effectively.

So how can you start asking good questions?  

Here’s a few good ones:

  • How can we apply what we’re learning to other areas of our work?
  • What do you think is really happening here?
  • What conversations do you find yourself avoiding?
  • Why did _____ work so well?
  • How can we ask better questions?
  • What is our most important take away from this meeting?
  • What would you recommend to make it work?
  • What would you do if you were in my position?
  • What if we did the opposite?
  • What have you noticed about your interactions with the (marketing) department?
  • Have you considered getting ideas from (person or teams)?
  • What else might be important to consider?

The leader of the past was a person who knew how to tell.  The leader of the future will be a person who knows how to ask.  – Peter Drucker

Are you achieving the results you want?
The best leaders make simple shifts or practical changes for big results.  I work closely with leaders to create practical solutions to achieve real success. Let me help you discover what's possible. Visit my website for details.

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