September 2016

Lead by Asking?

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 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.

Why Ask Good Questions?

The obvious benefits are the 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 by asking how things are going, and what’s challenging overall.  Just that one question can open the group to discuss the real but potentially invisible or underlying issues that may prevent 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 next steps. 

And finally, the benefit of leading by asking good questions models a behavior for your employees that lets them know it’s good 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.

Good Questions?

Here’s a few to keep handy:

  • How can we apply what we’re learning to other areas of our work?
  • What do you think is really happening here?
  • What did you learn?
  • Why did _____ work so well?
  • How can we make the most of this opportunity?
  • What is our most important take away from this meeting?
  • What would you recommend to make it work?
  • What if we did the opposite?
  • Have you considered getting ideas from (person or teams)?
  • What else might be important to consider?
  • What am I missing?
  • What do you think?

And... after you've asked good questions, don't forget to pause and ask yourself..."Am I listening?"

"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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