Phil Miglioratti Interviewed Bob Tiede for The Reimagine.Network
a One-on-One Seminar on Leading With Questions
PHIL >>> You are the co-author of "Leading With Questions." Some people may think a book of 10 chapters with 262 pages is overkill. How much is there to really learn about asking a question?
In many ways you are very correct! “Leading With Questions” is a really simple concept that the world’s most effective leaders know and employ! Once a Leader sees the power of leading with questions it seems so obvious! Yet for those who have not yet seen the power of leading with questions the obvious is not so obvious.
Whenever I speak I start with a confession: My confession is that for most of my career I was a benevolent dictator. Not out of evil intent. But the only paradigm of leadership that I had was that a leader needs to give his/her staff direction. i.e. a leader needs to tell his/her staff what to do! I did say “benevolent” dictator. I grew up in a home where I was taught to say “Please” and “Thank You” – so if you were on my team I used “Please” when I instructed you on what I needed you to do! And I said, “Thank You” when you finished doing what I instructed you to do! This all changed for me in 2006 when I discovered the first edition of “Leading With Questions” by Dr. Michael Marquardt. This book was a page-turner for me. It was filled with stories of leaders from literally around the globe who were leading with questions and it shared the questions they were asking. And as I read the book, I had only one question, “Why hasn’t anyone ever shared this paradigm of “Leading With Questions” with me before?
PHIL >>> Even if we already understand the power of questions, why do we rarely use them on purpose?
BOB >>> I think I need to push back a bit on your question. First, one of the things I have learned over the past 11 years is that very few leaders understand the power of questions. Like me, most leaders grow up with the Leadership Paradigm that they as a leader are the one that needs to have all the answers! They are there to “Answer” the questions their staff ask – not to “Ask” their staff questions! My observation is that as soon as a leader sees the power of leading with questions that they almost all immediately seek to begin to lead with questions.
A second reason that many leaders might be hesitant to lead with questions is that they make the concept far more difficult than it really is! They imagine that they will have to get a Masters Degree in Questionology! A Nice Idea – but something that they probably can never do. Whenever I speak, I ask, “Who here would like to learn to lead with questions in 30 seconds?” Every hand goes up! I then invite one member of the audience to come up to see if this is possible. I then share that all they will need to do is to memorize my 4 most favorite questions. I share that I have a second hand on my watch and that the time will start when I share my first question and then after I share the 4th question I will ask if they have them memorized and if they say, “Yes” I will then ask them to share all 4 and if they are successful the time will stop when they have successfully shared all 4.
Here are my four most favorite questions:
- What do you think?
- What else?
- What else?
- What else?
Every single time I have done this, the person from the audience has been successful and usually in closer to 20 seconds than 30.
I then thank them – but make the observation that some in the audience are a bit skeptical – like you can’t ask somebody, “What do you think? What else? What else? What else?” And I then share that, of course you wouldn’t do this rapidly. But imagine a conversation. And of course you will add a “topic” to your first question, like, “What do you think we should do to take advantage of this opportunity?, or to solve this challenge?” The person you ask will answer – but when they pause, instead of just moving on – you will say, “Wow that is good, what else?” And guess what? They will give you more. You see all of us when asked to share an opinion, we instinctively roll out a safe answer to see how they will treat it. When they affirm our answer – we relax a bit and when they ask us, “What else?” we then are happy to share more. And when they have answered the second time – instead of moving on, you might say, “This is so good – let me grab a pen so I can take notes, please continue, “What Else?”
Truth is – you will get to their Gold Nugget with your 3rd or 4th question. You have heard the story of the proverbial Gold Miner who mined for Gold all his life looking for the Gold Vein before he finally gave up. Someone came along later and discovered he was only 6 inches away from the Gold Vein when he quit. Don’t be that Gold Miner. Don’t just ask, “What do you think?” and then move on after you get their first answer. Remember to get to their Gold Nugget – their very best thought – you have to keep digging by asking, “What Else? What Else? What Else?
Now remember my question here was, “Who here would like to learn to lead with questions in 30 seconds? If you have been that leader who thinks you job is to tell you staff what to do – imagine your next meeting with one of your staff, one on one, or with your whole staff team around your conference table. Instead of telling them what to do – you are simply going to ask them, “What do you think we might do about X? What else? What else? What else?” Just by using these 4 questions you will have moved from “Leading by Telling” to “Leading with Questions!”
PHIL >>> What is the benefit of creating a 'questioning' culture?
BOB >>> Great Question! Phil can I ask you a question? It is a silly question! But I am going somewhere with this, so please go with me: Phil if you were in a rowboat with your whole team – let’s say 9 of them plus you. And there were oars for every one of them and you wanted to get that rowboat across the lake as quick as possible, how many of them would you like to have row with you?
Phil: All of them!
Bob: Yes – of course – I told you this was a silly question. But now I want you to imagine that same team gathered around your conference table. If you are a leader, like I once was – a benevolent dictator who thinks your job is to figure out what needs to be done and their job is then to do what you tell them to do, how many “mental oars” are there in the water – trying to figure out what needs to be done?
Phil: Just one!
Bob: Yes – just yours! But now imagine that you are a leader who leads with questions – so you share the opportunity or challenge before you and then lean forward – quickly connecting with the eyes of everyone at the table and then asking, “What do you think we might do to take advantage of this opportunity? Or to solve this challenge?” Now how many mental oars might be in the water?
Phil: 10! All of them!
Bob: Yes! And Phil as you hear their responses to your question, is it possible that you might hear some ideas better than any of the ideas you were thinking?
Bob: Not a guarantee – but certainly a possibility maybe even a probability. Now imagine that one of the responses you hear from one of your staff across the table – we will call her Sarah – is absolutely brilliant – frankly much better than any of the options you were thinking! So you lean forward – look Sarah in the eye and say, “Wow Sarah! That is brilliant! I love your idea! In fact would you be willing to lead our whole team to implement your idea?” Phil, how hard will Sarah work?
Phil: Really Hard!
Phil: Because it is her idea!
Bob: Yes! Thanks Phil for this "interaction." I trust that now your readers will understand just a bit of the value, simplicity and power of leading with questions!
Phil: How does this fit into the biblical context of a church called to worship and disciplemaking?
Bob: One of the books that I compiled is: “339 Questions Jesus Asked.” I say “compiled” because Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are the ones that recorded all of these questions that Jesus Asked. I simply compiled all the questions they recorded. And if you add up all the questions recorded in the 4 gospels you come up with 339 questions that Jesus asked.
Now I ask a lot of questions because I don’t know the answers. Think about this: Jesus never asked a question because he didn’t know the answer! So why did he ask? He obviously wanted to see people changed. Might he have known that if you wanted to see the lives of people changed that asking them questions which they in turn then answered would be much more effective? Because it would be their answers to his questions that would greatly increase the likelihood of them changing! I am guessing that Jesus knew this! And that is why he asked so many questions!
This is still true today!
Someone once said that other people’s answers are like other people’s children – nice – but you still like yours best!
Do you like to be told what to do? Or what to think? I am guessing, “No!” Do you much more enjoy it when someone asks you, “What do you think?” I am reminded of a quote that I love by Henry David Thoreau, “The greatest compliment ever paid me was when one asked me what I thought and then attended to my answer!”
If you want to see the lives of those you are discipling, changed – then don’t’ tell them what they out to think, instead, follow the model of Jesus, by asking them questions that will result in their being changed by the responses they share to your questions!
PHIL >>> Unpack these elements of 'questioning.'
Leading people >>>
Bob: it is a really heavy burden on the shoulders of any leader who thinks they need to have all the answers! Truth is that no one has all the answers! But I used to be that leader who thought my job was to have all the answers! What do you think a Leader who thinks they need to have all the answers is tempted to do when they are asked a question for which they have no answer? Yes! They are tempted to make up an answer on the spot! I know – because I remember doing this. Now my staff were very kind and no one every spoke up and said, “I think you just made that up!” But I am guessing some of my staff were thinking, “I don’t think Bob really knows – I think he just made that up!”
But today I say, “Leadership is not as much about knowing all the answers as it is about asking the right questions.”
Today when I am asked a question that I don’t know the answer for, I will respond – with, “Wow! That’s a great question. I don’t know the answer. How would you answer your question?” Many times they have an answer. But if they say, “I don’t’ know, that is why I am asking you!” I respond with, “Again this is a really great question. I don’t know the answer, but how do you think we could find the answer?” They always have some ideas of who might know or how they might find the answer on line. I then ask, “Will you please go find out and then come back to me with the answer? Because knowing the answer to your great question will greatly benefit us both!”
Asking the right question >>>
Bob: If you think that there is only “One Right Question” then you are going to be hesitant to ask, lest you ask the wrong question! This is why my favorite question is “What do you think?” Equally or probably even more important than asking is listening to their answers! In fact if you aren’t going to listen to their answer then don’t ask them a question! I frequently ask my audiences, “Who here would like to become a better listener in 8 seconds?” Again every hand goes up. I then ask, “What sport has an 8 second clock?” Someone in the audience always responds with “Bull Riding!” Yes! To us 8 seconds came seem like nothing! But to a Bull Rider 8 seconds is an eternity. In fact 80% of all Bull Riders are knocked off their bull in less than 8 seconds! So what does bull riding have to do with becoming a better listener. Research shows that the average person when they ask a question only waits 2-3 seconds for an answer. If they don’t answer in 2-3 seconds the silence seems like an eternity and the average person will either re-ask the question or ask another question or answer the question themselves or just move on in the conversation with absolutely no self awareness of what they have just done! Don’t be that person – Don’t get knocked off that bull in less than 8 seconds! – Ask your question! Then count silently to yourself, “One thousand one – one thousand two –one thousand three…… truth is there are times I have gotten to one thousand thirty! The longer their silence the better their answer. Of course if I ask, “Which way to the men’s room?” you will answer instantly. But if I ask, “What might have been one of your greatest failures than has led to one of your greatest successes?” If you have never before been asked this question, how likely will it be for you to have an answer in 2-3 seconds? Not likely! How helpful will it be if at 2 or 3 seconds I ask another question? Not very helpful! But if I wait silently to give you time to think, I will very likely be the beneficiary of an incredible story and an incredible piece of wisdom!
Building teams >>>
Bob: A leader who answers all of their staff’s questions will in fact develop a group of followers! But a leader who asks their staff questions will in fact develop a group of leaders! So what do you think: is the goal of leadership to develop more followers? Or to develop more leaders? You all know, “Give a Man a Fish, and You Feed Him for a Day. Teach a Man To Fish, and You Feed Him for a Lifetime!” The same is true for Leaders!
Planning strategy >>>
Bob: When you lead with questions, you will likely be 10 times more effective than when you lead by telling! You get everyone’s mental oars in the water greatly increasing the likelihood of great ideas surfacing! And when your whole team is involved in surfacing those ideas guest what – they will also own the path forward – greatly increasing the probability of successful execution of your strategic plan!
Two ideas for a Strategic planning session:
Idea One: Start with a Question Storming Session: Set a Goal like 50 questions that we will need to answer to figure out the best way forward! Once the 50 questions are on the board – then everyone gets to put a check mark by the ten that they think will be most important to answer. Then once you have the ten – ask your team members to pick which ones they want to go research to come back to your next meeting with answers.
Idea Two: Ask your team to Brainstorm: “How could we do this in a way that will guarantee its failure?” You know the guy on every team that loves to kill brainstorming sessions with, “That will never work!” – that guy will love this! Once you have a list of all the things that would guarantee failure then item by item ask: “If this would guarantee failure what would guarantee success?” For example, If “Never asking our clients for feedback will guarantee failure – what would guarantee success?” Of course the answer is, “We need to ask our clients for feedback as part of our plan!”
Solving problems >>>
Bob: Let me share about the power of “Might!” This has broader application than just solving problems. But when you share a problem with you team and then ask “What should we do to fix this?” might your staff be hesitant to answer because it can seem like there is just one right solution. So instead of asking “What SHOULD we do to fix this? Ask, “What MIGHT we do to fix this? Do you see the difference? Asking “Might” just might make your staff more willing to share their ideas. And of course the more ideas shared the closer you will likely be to finding the solution.
There are also some other questions that I like to use when trying to solve any problem:
- What’s our goal here? (Discussing the goal will help clarify the problem)
- What would happen if we simply ignored this problem? (Not suggesting that you should ignore the problem – but asking this will likely surface strong support and therefore ownership for this problem needing to be solved)
- What are we not seeing here? (Many times there are other issues that are not instantly visible that have created the problem – identifying them and then solving them will in help solve the problem on the table)
- Have we ever been confronted with this problem or another problem very similar to this? How did we solve it? And/or What did we learn from that experience?
PHIL >>> How does 'questioning' assist a leader who wants to reimagine ministry with Spirit-led, Scripture-fed thinking?
BOB >>> It is always important for Christian Leaders (Truth is for all Leaders) to ask:
- How would God answer this?
- What light can we gain for the Scriptures to answer this?
- Where in the Scriptures might we find a similar problem? How did they solve it?
- What would Jesus Do?
- How might we pray about this? (If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” James 1:5
- I think of one of my Cru Colleagues, who is always quick to instantly pray verbally, “Lord, what should we do?”
Phil: How do we begin?
BOB >>> Simply no matter what the issue start asking your team members one on one or when they are together: What do you think? What else? What else? What else?
PHIL >>> One more insight about 'questions' we need to think about
Bob: Can I share my second most favorite question? Have you ever answered a question only to discover that you completely missed their question? I know I have. So my second most favorite question to ask whenever I am asked a question is: Can you please tell me more? They are always willing to tell me more and when they do I am much more likely to then be able to answer the question they are really asking or to come up with questions I can ask to help them find the solution to their own question.
I love sharing this little story:
Johnnie (age 7) comes running into the house, yelling to his mom, “Where did I come from?” Johnnie’s mom had not been expecting this question–well, at least not yet! But after taking a deep breath and collecting her thoughts just a bit, she invites Johnnie into the living room where she shares all about “The Birds and the Bees.” Johnnie’s eyes are wide as saucers as he takes in every word. When Johnnie’s mom is finished, she says, “Now Johnnie, do you understand where you came from?” Johnnie replies, “No! Joey said that he comes from California and he asked me where I come from!”
Do you think Johnnie’s mom had wished she had responded to Johnnie’s question with, “Can you please tell me more?” Johnnie would have instantly blurted out, “Joey said that he comes from California and asked me where I come from?” And Johnnie’s mom then could have answered, “You come from Texas!” Johnnie would have immediately dashed back out the door to tell Joey, “I come from Texas!” And his mom could have saved her “Birds & Bees” story for another day! So, do you now understand why your first question should always be, “Can you please tell me more?”
PHIL >>> Bob, write a 'questioning' prayer that will help us begin to incorporate 'questioning' into our ministry.
BOB >>> Lord God the first question you asked, was your question to Adam and Eve, “Where are you?” You did not ask for your benefit – You knew exactly where they were. You asked for their benefit. Lord, I think your Holy Spirit still asks each of us, “Where are You?” Where are we in relationship to you? Where are we in relationship to your word? Where are we in relationship to our spouse? Our children? Our parents? Our Brothers and Sisters in Christ? Lord Jesus, your ministry was filled with questions: You asked, “Who do people say I am? But what about you, Who do you say I am?” You are still asking these same questions to us today? You are also asking, “Do You love me? Do you love me? Do you love me?” Lord you use questions to get us to think! You know that our answers to your questions will change us! Lord thank you that in our leadership we can follow your example to lead with questions like you have and are leading in our lives! Lord we ask for your Holy Spirit to continue to ask each of us questions! So that our answers to your questions might continue the process of conforming us to your image! In the Mighty name of Jesus! Amen!
Biography:Bob Tiede (pronounced “Tee-Dee”) has been on the staff of Cru (formerly known as Campus Crusade for Christ) for 52 years. He placed his faith in Jesus his freshman year at the University of South Dakota when a group of Cru Campus students from Iowa State shared Christ with his whole fraternity. Bob has served 8 years in Cru Campus and then 24 years as the CEO of Josh McDowell Ministry – a Division of Cru. And Now 20 years on the U.S. Leadership Development Team – developing the next generation of leaders for Cru. Bob’s blog LeadingWithQuestions.com is now in its 11th year and followed by leaders in over 190 countries. Bob has written 5 very popular free ebooks, including “Great Leaders Ask Questions” and “Now That’s a Great Question.” Bob's newest book, the 3rd Edition of "LEADING WITH QUESTIONS" was released on April 25. And is available on Amazon or wherever books are sold. Bob’s mission is to help leaders everywhere multiply their leadership effectiveness X10 by moving from “Let Me Tell You!” to “Let Me Ask You!” Bob has been married to Sherry for 53 years and is the proud Dad of 4 adult children – all married and 8 incredible Grandchildren – all who love to ask their “Papa Bob” questions!
Social Media Handles:
- Bob has 5 free eBooks - all available for free download @ LeadingWithQuestions.com/books (they are also available in multiple languages)
- Great Leaders ASK Questions
- 339 Questions Jesus Asked
- Now That's a Great Question
- The Little Book of BIG LeadingWithQuestions Quotes
- 260 Questions Paul the Apostle of Christ Asked
- Bob's Newest Book, "3rd Edition of "LEADING WITH QUESTIONS" - for sale on Amazon or wherever books are sold: Here is a link to Amazon for Purchase: bit.ly/3MKwHke
Leadership Development Team; Cru