leadership (2)

Good Leadership Starts With Good Questions

Good Leadership Starts With Good Questions

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Good Leadership Is About Asking Good Questions

Guest Post by John Hagel

Originally Posted @ Harvard Business Review

Leaders today need to revisit an overlooked skill: asking questions. In my 40 years as an executive and advisor in Silicon Valley, I’ve often seen leaders assume that people look to them for answers — bold assertions that build people’s confidence in their competence. But in reality, that kind of approach erodes trust, especially at a time when so much is manifestly uncertain. You think you have the answers to all important questions? That suggests that you are either clueless — you have no idea how rapidly the world is changing — or that you are lying. In either case, you won’t find that trust that you’ve been looking for.

Instead, leaders should ask powerful and inspiring questions, convey that they don’t have the answers, and solicit others’ help to find them. The leaders I talk to tend to be nervous about this approach: Won’t it look like they don’t know what they’re doing? On the contrary, however, research has shown that expressing vulnerability and asking for help is a strong signal to others that you are trusting, and you’re more likely to be trusted in return. In fact, if you can learn to ask questions well, it can help you connect with others. Thinking together can put you on the path to solving intractable problems and sparking innovative thinking.

Drucker Forum 2020

This article is one in a series related to the 12th Global Peter Drucker Forum, with the theme “Leadership Everywhere.” See the program here.

Ask Big Questions

To be clear: I’m not saying you should ask pointed questions that put others on the spot, like “How can you deliver 10% higher productivity?” or “Are you missing anything here?” The kind of questions leaders need to ask are those that invite people to come together to explore major new opportunities that your organization hasn’t identified yet. Here are some examples:

  • What is a game-changing opportunity that could create much more value than we have delivered in the past?
  • What are emerging unmet needs of our customers that could provide the foundation for an entirely new business?
  • How could we leverage the resources of third parties to address a broader range of the needs of our customers?
  • How can we move from standardized, mass-market products and services to personalizing our products and services to the specific needs of each customer?
  • How can we develop supply networks that would be more flexible in responding to unanticipated disruptions in production or logistics?
  • How could we harness sensor technology to create more visibility into how our customers are using our products and use this information to deliver more value and deepen trust with our customers?

Focusing your questions on these kinds of new and big opportunities rather than on the existing activities of the organization can also help you to sidestep your fear that questioning will be seen as a sign of weakness, since there’s no way you could be expected to know the answers.

These broader questions also communicate that you have a sense of ambition, that you want to take the organization way beyond where it is today. And you can bolster your credibility by providing evidence of those long-term trends that underlie your question – for example, emerging technologies that are likely to offer new opportunities, or demographic shifts that will create some significant unmet needs among your customers.

Involve Others

These questions also invite collaboration. To make the most of them, don’t ask them in closed leadership meetings. Instead, broadcast them throughout your organization and even beyond it. It’s not just you posing a question to your people, it’s your brand reaching out to learn from its consumers. Reaching out beyond the institution to connect with expertise and perspectives from a broader set of more diverse sources will help your company learn faster.

For example, take Domino’s Pizza. About 10 years ago, Domino’s was hearing from customers that they did not like the company’s pizza. Many organizations might have tried to hide this information or work behind the scenes to correct the problem. Domino’s Pizza did something different. They made public the feedback they were receiving and asked for suggestions on how they could improve the quality of their pies. This open question generated an avalanche of suggestions that proved very helpful in improving the pizzas.

But beyond an open innovation success, the impact was even more fundamental: by expressing vulnerability, I believe that the company built trust with customers. Here was a company that was willing to acknowledge they had a problem and to ask for help in addressing the problem. If more organizations were willing to ask for help from their customers and other stakeholders when experiencing a problem, they would likely have much greater success in re-building trust.

Change Your Culture

Anxiety can run high in volatile times, and by asking these kinds of questions you can help people overcome some of their fears. It’s well established in the psychology field that coming together with others can reduce anxiety — that’s the idea behind group therapy. And achieving real impact can also help overcome feelings of being overwhelmed. Thus by helping people to focus on short-term actions they can take together, your questions can provide a focusing and calming effect during a crisis. .

By asking questions as a leader, you also communicate that questioning is important. You’ll inspire people to identify new opportunities and to ask for help when they need it. These behaviors lead to a culture of learning, which is critical, since the institutions that will thrive in the future are those that encourage everyone to learn faster and more rapidly expand the value that they deliver to their stakeholders.

This will be especially true if you encourage exploration that can generate new insights into potential answers to your questions, rather than simply expecting complete answers and nothing less. This will encourage people to make small moves initially that can quickly help to increase excitement about the question since participants can quickly begin to see progress. As early answers to your question begin to emerge (as a result of experiments or research, for example), share them, even if they are not groundbreaking. They’ll contribute to your culture of learning and show your stakeholders that your questioning is generating new insights, increasing their confidence in your methods.

Leaders who ask powerful questions have the greatest success in both seizing new opportunities and addressing unexpected challenges — and they build cultures that will carry these benefits into the future.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John Hagel is a trusted advisor who has been based in Silicon Valley for over 40 years but who has worked with leaders around the world. On the side, he has published 8 books, including his most recent, "The Journey Beyond Fear"  You can connect with John @ JohnHagel.com

 
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GUEST POST: Lead a Reimagine Journey

                       GUEST POST: Lead a Reimagine Journey

Capitalize on your strengths

New blog post from Marcy Bradford
 

No leader is perfect. Rather than focusing on your weaknesses, you can learn how to make the best use of your strengths to get where you want to go.

One of the books I consistently use when I teach leadership in the Fuller Seminary D Min program is Strengths Based Leadership by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie. It’s the newest edition of the book based on the classic StrengthsFinder Assessment—now renamed Clifton Strengths, after its inventor Don Clifton (1924-2003). 

 

Strengths Based Leadership

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The genius of the assessment—as well as the leadership books built around it—is that by knowing and embracing your strengths as a leader you can capitalize on them.  For example, the book makes a point that Winston Churchill and Mahatma Gandhi were both great leaders, yet quite different from one another. There is no one profile of a leader, but rather a leader is one who makes use of his or her strengths to lead effectively. Essentially, use what you’ve got. 

Know your team

A corollary is then that you’ll need others on your team who can help you shore up the areas where you aren’t strong. For instance, a strong visionary leader may need an organizer to come along after them to put all the necessary follow up into place needed to bring the vision to reality. 

There is a great section in the book that breaks down the 34 strengths (or themes) into four domains: executing, influencing, relationships building, and strategic thinking. Ideally, a good team will have members representing strongly in each of those domains. 

Know your audience

Yet one of the best new features of this book is the addition of a section on why people follow. What needs do people have that good leaders meet? Rath and Conchie break down the four basic needs of followers, and then discuss how different kinds of leaders can meet those needs. I won’t give away any spoilers here, but this section along is well worth the price of the book. 

Know yourself

The core value of the book for anyone new to StrengthsFinder—is the ability to take the assessment itself and determine their own top five strengths. Knowing this information helps you utilize your strengths more effectively, determine who to work alongside on your team, and understand how you are uniquely positioned to meet followers’ needs.   

Five stars—highly recommended! 

The Leadership Difference

Effective leaders don’t come ready made. Sure some have a natural leadership ability but the best leaders hone and develop the skills needed to be effective. If you are running up against barriers in your ministry that aren’t specifically theological but are more about how to lead people and get along with them as you work together, The Leadership Difference is for you. LEARN MORE HERE.

Photo by samer daboul

The post Capitalize on your strengths appeared first on Logan Leadership.


 

 

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