The quality of our outcomes reflects the quality or our questions. Are you asking the right ones of yourself and your team?
“Quality questions create a quality life. Successful people ask better questions and as a result they get better answers.” – Tony Robbins
Great leaders know the value of quality questions. They recognize the power of asking the right ones to unlock new ideas, build connection and shift perspective. Most of us are familiar with the saying ‘there is no such thing as a silly question’ but my question (excuse the pun!) to you is: Are we asking productive questions? Ones that lead to discovery, enact change, increase productivity and build relationships and collaboration?
All to often I meet with business leaders whose questions are firmly anchored in frustration, judgment and blame – either in themselves or their team members. Why is this happening to me? What’s wrong with me/them? When will my life or career improve? Why can’t they just get on with it? What on earth is the problem now?
When we ask negatively framed questions we yield negative responses. Answers such as: Life isn’t fair, I’m just not lucky enough, or I’m not good enough seem to abound. They keep us stuck and cause us to focus on the hurdles and ultimately disempower rather than empower. They have the potential to send us into a tailspin of self-doubt and self-sabotage. Whilst great care needs to be taken in how we ask questions we also need to consider how we pose them so as to ensure we are moving towards a solution, removing roadblocks and acting as catalysts for change – both for ourselves and the businesses we lead.
Rick Smith, founder of World 50 – a premier senior networking organization for global executives – believes that we live in a world where today’s leaders are addicted to answers. He advocates for the need for leaders to shift this addiction to asking the right questions. As he notes, in chaotic and ever changing competitive business landscapes, success requires focus, and knowing where to focus will be determined by the questions you are asking.
Not only does asking the right people the right questions drive great answers and outcomes for your business, it can also deliver great benefits to you as a leader. Innovation, confidence, capability, engagement and productivity levels all stand to be enhanced when the right questions are asked. Demonstrating a genuine interest and care of concern for the individuals and the outcomes fosters loyalty and commitment. Of course the key is to ask questions in a way that seeks to deliver insight, learning and support rather than acting as a trigger to defensiveness. To do this we need to not just ask the questions but also demonstrate the ability to listen to the answers provided and suspend judgment. It is about really listening to understand and discover the meaning behind what is being said.
I would encourage to you ask yourself the following questions about you as a leader, your team and your organization?
Great leaders take the time to ask themselves questions that raise their own self-awareness and examine ways that they can improve or adapt the way they do things.
Great leaders know how to probe the thought process of their team members to uncover how they are individually and collectively performing and what roadblocks need to be removed, gaps need to be addressed and relationships need support.
Great leaders recognise their obligation to contribute not just on an individual level but also at a whole of business level. They examine the ways their organization functions to ensure cultural alignment, maximum efficiency and productivity. They ask questions about behaviours, practices, processes and structures.
Ultimately the reason we ask questions is to build meaning and to ‘connect the dots’. Learning to ask empowering questions will ultimately shape the meaning we create and the quality of our success. As leaders we need to be doing this at all three levels: self, team and business if we are to create a lasting impact at an individual and business level.
As always I would love to hear your thoughts below.
Margot – The Career Diplomat
The roots of courageous leadership are firmly planted in self awareness, ownership and accountability.
Work on strengthening two different aspects of resilience.
When at a career crossroads, give yourself room to imagine what’s possible without any guilt.
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