I had so many wonderful, vibrant conversations this past week. The settings: coffee shops, restaurants and offices. Thinking back, I think my most important take-a-way from these conversations is the power of great questions.
The best questions result in silence, the silence resulting from reflection.
Recently, one of my clients received feedback in her 360 assessment that her colleagues felt she needed to have more impact in senior management committee meetings. In her thinking about her strategy to do that, she realized that she needed to ask great questions, questions that caused the committee to dive deeper and reflect, and maybe even change the course of their direction. She has done that in these meetings and feels great about her impact and the feedback she is receiving.
There is a wonderful quote, “Everything I know I have learned from my six best friends. Their names are What, Why, How, Who, Where and When.”
I had the benefit of a Jesuit education and remember that, when asked a question in class, my professors would follow up with “and why do you think that?” to cause us to think more deeply. In fact, a professor might ask as many as four or five open-ended follow up questions to help us understand and learn.
Our responsibility as bosses and as leaders is to help our team members learn, grow and succeed. Perhaps the most effective approach to doing that is leadership by questioning.
One can tell if a person is wise by her/his questions.
Asking the right questions about a problem is the most effective way to determine the best solution. It turns the problem into a question.
I’ve written about Action Learning, and how effective it is in developing teamwork and leadership capabilities and determining the best solution to a compelling issue, problem or need. Action Learning is founded on appreciative inquiry – asking purposeful and reflective questions.
My invitation this week is for us to talk less, to ask more questions, to be comfortable with silence as we reflect.