We can learn so much by asking great questions, and this a fantastic habit to develop. But as well as helping us increase our knowledge and understanding, it also makes our teams feel more involved; that we listen to them; and that we value their input; all of which increases their commitment and motivation.
Here are 5 great questions.
- Is there a simpler solution or a simpler way of doing this?
- Can you explain the solution to me?
- What should we stop doing?
- Is this urgent or important?
- Do you think our approach will be successful?
Is there a simpler solution or a simpler way of doing this?
Many people have a natural tendency to over complicate things, especially when under pressure, and as leaders we need to step back, take a pause and ask whether there is a simpler solution that we could implement.
Complex solutions are usually easier to find, and simpler solutions or simpler ways of doing things take a little bit longer. As leader we need to give our teams the time to take a breath and see if there is an alternative which could be easier.
The people closest to the problem often have the best understanding of it, but might not be involved in designing the solution so it’s always good to get their input.
What we need is a solution that is going to work in practice not just in theory.
Can you explain the solution to me?
If something doesn’t quite add up, or you don’t understand how the solution is going to work ask the experts to explain it to you. If they can’t explain it, then they don’t fully understand the solution, and if they don’t understand it, who does. When we lack understanding into how our solution will work we’re probably staring down the barrel of failure.
Also, when people explain things it actually requires them to think them through again, often at a deeper level, and I have often seen this increase their understanding of the solution, or they notice an issue that they were previously not aware of.
The better we understand the solution the clearer we can explain it, and if we can explain it clearly, then we can get everyone on the same page, all of which increases our probability of success.
What should we stop doing?
At every company I have worked there has been lots, and lots, of institutionalised bureaucracy which just add unnecessary tasks which dilute our effectiveness and efficiency. We can see great returns when we ask our teams if they were in charge what would they stop doing.
But we need to be open to the answers that we get, and we should create an environment where people feel comfortable saying what they truly believe.
At one company where I worked we had a regular monthly meeting where the senior leadership team spent 2 days locked in a room with the boss listening to presentations.
Every single person who attended told me that these meetings were useless, meaningless and an utter waste of time. However, whenever the boss asked us what things we could stop doing to improve our effectiveness no one ever mentioned cancelling the meetings although we all believed it, because we knew the answer would not be well received.
We need to give our teams the comfort to be able to tell us what adds no value, otherwise institutionalised bureaucracy will limit our effectiveness.
Is this urgent or important?
In today’s highly pressurised world we are bombarded with urgent things which constantly demand our attention, but quite often these are just urgent but not important.
As leaders we need to ensure that the majority of our time, and the time of our team, is spent on the important items, whether they be urgent or not, otherwise we will always find ourselves under pressure.
A great approach that I learned early in my career, from one of the most effective bosses I had, was always try and start the day with a couple things that are important, but which are not necessarily urgent. One of the interesting things with important things is that eventually they will become urgent, but if we can deal with them before they become urgent we have more time to come up with a better solution.
Do you think our approach will be successful?
According to research into failure, 75% of the teams who were involved in projects that failed, knew the project would fail right from the start.
When people lack belief then this becomes a self fulfilling prophesy, it is possible that some of these projects failed just because people that it would fail.
So it’s good for us to ask this question because if the team are not confident, then it will give us an opportunity to be able to explain the approach, the solution, again and look to give the team the belief that they need.
It could also be that the solution is flawed, that we have missed something, and by asking the teams we give them an opportunity to point things out we might have missed, or raise their concerns, which then give us the chance to address them.
As leaders we do not have all of the answers, and no one really expects us to, but they do expects to ask the right questions. I have worked with many leaders who felt that asking these types of questions showed weakness, a lack in their understanding or their ability.
However for me this doesn’t show weakness it shows confidence, it shows that a leader is confident in their ability and with their team, and that they are prepared to appear vulnerable, all of which takes great courage.
If you want to learn more about Inspiring Leadership and how to increase Engagement within your teams email me at Gordon@leadership-principles.com.