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Lead with Questions

by Jonathan Jones

Leadership is not about having all the answers. It is about developing people to figure out challenges on their own and putting those discoveries into action toward a vision. To develop people, you will get better results if you can teach the art of asking questions.

Answers feel definitive. You may be right — and you may not. In any case, the answer’s recipient can easily excuse himself from any responsibility to learn enough to reach his own conclusions.

Questions, on the other hand, can make you smarter and more effective as a leader. Questions stimulate curiosity, learning and the ability to think independently. They also encourage teams to work together to solve problems.

So instead of saying to your staff, “Do this... ,” say, “What would you do?” At that point, you are getting them to think. You can support their thinking when they respond, even if you don’t happen to agree, with more questions. “Why do you think that?” Be prepared to learn something from them that will change your understanding.

In encouraging your people to probe ever deeper, you not only stimulate new ideas but also build confidence. As a team, the goal is to reach shared understanding. If you need to get to the root of the problem, ask questions.
In my opinion, “Why?” is the greatest question ever. It may take five to 10 whys before you get down to the why of the problem, but once you do, you’ll be surprised how fast the right answers will materialize.

As a leader, it is your job to get others to think and work together. Develop their ability to ask effective questions. Lead by example. Lead with questions.

Jonathan Jones (Jonathan.jones@vistagechair.com or 314-608-0783) is a CEO peer group chair/coach for Vistage International.

Submitted 180 days ago
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Categories: categoryCulturecentric Leadership
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