In today’s information-saturated world, having the right answer isn’t the key to leadership success.  Ensuring the right question is being answered is foundational to great leadership.  In the past leaders drew much of their power and success from being the most knowledgeable person in the area they led.  Today a leader’s team has access to more knowledge and answers than any one person can master, so the leader’s role has shifted from answering to questioning.

 Ask –  Don’t tell

  • A bias toward action keeps you from stepping back and ensuring you are acting on the right challenge or opportunity.
  • When you are telling, one person is thinking. When you are asking, the entire team is thinking.  Which is more likely to produce a better answer?
  • People are more committed to an idea when they are involved in developing it.
  • Spend time on a question before trying to answer it. Make sure you are answering the correct and complete question.

Humility recognizes that while you know a great deal, you don’t know everything.

It takes humility

  • Humility recognizes that while you know a great deal, you don’t know everything.
  • Humility says you don’t need to be in control to be in command.
  • Humility knows a better answer comes from a broader perspective.
  • Humility calls you to focus on the needs of the organization rather than your need to look smart.
  • Humility allows you to confidently seek input and encourage questions and challenges before you make a decision.

Why, what if, how

In his book, A More Beautiful Question, Warren Berger describes a specific pattern of questioning which will help your team produce innovative answers.

“Why” questions identify the problem to be solved

  • “Why do customers wait to the last minute to reorder, causing us to rush and them to pay high overnight shipping charges?”

“What If” questions begin to look at life once the problem is solved

  • “What if customers never ran low on inventory?”

“How” questions start the process of finding a solution.

  • “How can we get customers to sign up for automatic monthly shipping?”

 Great leaders inspire and focus their teams to solve problems, not to obediently follow the leaders’ direction.