The Question of Leading – The Answer Is In The Question

I believe in one saying, “Never ask a question, you don’t want the answer to.” In other words, if you have set your mind on a direction, then don’t ask someone else what they think because then you will have to deal with that answer (and you may not like it!).

Now this said, there are times when asking questions can be valuable, especially when you are leading a group of people and trying to get to some end. Here is where questions can be invaluable when it comes to leading:

  • To gain a better understanding of how the people around you process information – We don’t all process information the same way. Those leaders who spend the time to understand how the people around them process information are able to deliver information in a way that moves the process along faster. Flexibility in communication style is what sets leaders apart.
  • To draw on the experience of team members – The strength of a group of people is in their different perspectives, based on having varied skills and experiences. Leaders understand that sometimes they don’t have all the answers and in fact, sometime it is better if they don’t. Those who ask questions, involve the people around them in different ways, by encouraging them to help be part of the thinking of the build, rather than simply doing the task of the build.
  • To understand what types of question a broader audience might have – You can be sure that if one of your team members has the question, then so too will your broader audience. If the people involved in the project have questions, getting those out on the table quickly will ensure a more robust solution. Sometimes those questions might appear to be resistance, however embrace them and work through them, because it will make your solutions stronger in the end.

Great leaders not only have great ideas; they are curious to their core. They like to understand how things work, or how it could work if something was changed. They like to run “what if” scenarios and it is a big part in how they come up with new ideas.

If you have the belief as the boss, you need to have all the answers, stop yourself and start asking questions. My guess is, you might find even better ones.

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