Powerful questions separate today’s successful leaders from those who struggle
For too long, leadership has leaned heavily on having the right answers. Knowing what needs to happen when and who needs to do what.
Or authority has relied on having specific technical knowledge that simply wasn’t accessible to others. Sometimes this was based on a specific educational path, extensive training, or years of experience.
On their own, there’s nothing wrong with either of these. However, to genuinely lead and serve our organizations, we need something better than answers. What we need are powerful questions.
Why Good Answers Aren’t Good Enough
There are times when we all need answers—and sometimes we need them fast. For example, when we’re in a crisis, there’s less time to employ the Socratic Method to help team members dissect a problem, define a solution, and deliver with excellence. There are times when it’s necessary for leaders to directly insert themselves into a situation and bring it to resolution.
But it’s not most of the time.
When leaders are too readily providing answers to their teams, they effectively teach those team members to stop thinking for themselves. And when they stop thinking for themselves, they stop growing. Companies that stop growing are in trouble and no leader worth their salt wants this to happen. This is perhaps one of the worst things that can happen to a company and spells almost certain doom.
Instead, leaders need to resist the desire to solve problems by instantly providing the answers and help their team members understand the problems they’re facing. By taking the time to talk through the problem and have the team members discover the answer, the future accountability for solving that problem moves from the leader to the staff member—it frees up the future time and attention of that leader to focus on more valuable issues. It also genuinely empowers that team member.
It’s that transfer of thinking, of power, and activity that makes it possible for an organization to scale because it moves decision-making to where it should have existed in the first place.
The Answers are All Around Us
There was a time when almost all the answers we needed where in the minds of our team members. They still are, but that’s not the only place. The challenge when so many of the answers we need are in the minds of our colleagues is that they’re busy. Getting them to take the time to provide those answers—for us and for others in the organization—can be unrealistic depending on the other accountabilities they also have.
Plus, let’s face it, we can search for so much. In seconds I can give the GDP for Belize or the annual average rainfall of Wyoming. We can Google anything and come up a volumes of information that we can use to get started. Now, the cynical and the savvy will caution that information is not knowledge. I agree. There’s as much garbage available to us as there are insights and it takes real judgement and commitment to discern between them. But what we have now that we didn’t have before are options.
In a World of Answers, We Need More Powerful Questions
When answers—data, information, resources—are all around us, our needs begin to change.
Not just any questions. They need to be more sophisticated and thoughtful.
With almost limitless information at our fingertips, the challenge is knowing exactly what to ask in order to get what you genuinely need.
Powerful questions cut through the noise and get to the heart of the problems you’re facing. A person who asks powerful questions recognizes all the distractions and clutter, and is able to successfully resist them and get to the essence of what they really need.
The truth is, the value of a person who knows what questions to ask dramatically exceeds the value of a person who only knows how to answer them. It’s our questions that open up new possibilities. The curiosity and the courage to ask new questions — or to ask questions who’s time had not yet come — is the source from which innovation flows.
We’ve seen them transform their organizations by asking more daring questions and then respectfully taking the time to understand the answers they get from those questions.
Most of them know they need to be doing this. When we start to work with them they typically acknowledge that this approach resonates deeply but that they were struggling to find the words to express it.
If you’re like them — if you’re like us — then perhaps this is true for you too.
The powerful question you face now is, “What are you going to do about it?”
If you’re ready to start asking more powerful questions, then take the time to learn which questions to ask and how to ask them.
Join over 100 other business leaders who have already registered to attend our special evening seminar to do exactly that. This is our investment in you. The event is free.
You just have to decide if you’re ready.