My #1 Question for the People Around Me
What’s the big deal? What I mean is, what’s the big problem that stands between you and success? Is it a person? A situation? Or is it something inside of you? Maybe an attitude or a fear? A doubt or a belief?
For me, what stood between me and my goals was usually something internal. Sure, there were problems and people who made my journey challenging. But my biggest problem was usually staring at me in the mirror. Leading yourself is the most important — and the most difficult — aspect of leadership.
As I’ve been writing in my blog series, I believe there is a key to leading yourself past the obstacles you encounter: Asking Questions. Why do I think something so simple can make such a big difference? Because of what it does inside of you.
The simple act of asking the right questions of the right people can provide crucial information, offer clarity and help you make better decisions. That process begins with the questions you ask yourself. It continues with the questions you ask others. When you ask the right questions of people on your team, it not only gives the above benefits, it can also improve your connection with them and demonstrate your openness and teachability.
In my upcoming book, Good Leaders Ask Great Questions, I share the eleven questions that I continually ask members of my team. Today, I’ll talk about the question that I ask my most often: “What do you think?” These words come out of my mouth a dozen or more times every day.
What Do You Think?
When I ask people what they think, at different times I do it for different reasons. Some of those are…
Sometimes the question is as straightforward as it sounds. I simply want good information. Often I receive that from my inner circle, whom I value very highly. Every person is not only talented and capable, but also a good thinker. Often I ask what they think because I can learn from them. They are like an extension of me.
I believe that leaders see more than others see and see things before others do. Having leadership gifting is often like having a head start in a race. But obviously leaders don’t see everything. By asking people on my team to tell me what they think, I can often gather additional information that gives me a better idea of what’s going on. One of my jobs as a leader is to piece these bits of information together into a complete picture so I can make good decisions.
Confirming My Intuition
Often I have a strong sense that something is true, but cannot explain why. It comes out of a strong sense of intuition. We are all intuitive in our areas of strength; mine is most acute in leadership situations. If you think you know something, but you’re not sure why, what can you do to validate your belief? Ask someone you trust. To verify that what I’m sensing is correct, I’ll ask leaders I respect what they think. Their answers often put words to my feelings and confirm my intuition, giving me greater certainty as I plan or make decisions.
Assessing Someone’s Judgment or Leadership
When new people join my team, I often ask what they think. For example, if we’re in a meeting, I’ll ask what they observed and get their opinion on what happened. It helps me learn if they read the room right. Or if we’re strategizing, I’ll ask how they think we should proceed. This is the fastest way to assess people’s thinking and observation abilities.
Teaching How I Think
Let me say one more thing about asking people what they think about an idea or subject. When I ask the question, I always tell people why I’ve asked it, because that is one of the best ways to teach people. Why is a great tool for connecting and equipping.
Processing a Decision
Sometimes people need a number of different perspectives in order to discover the best choice. And sometimes they need time and reflection to process a decision. That has been true for me and for members of my team. Sometimes they have needed to move me along and convince me of a decision they believe in. Sometimes it’s the other way around, and I need to give them time to come around. The give and take is very healthy.
Asking the question “What do you think?” has often allowed me to lead my organization better than I would have if I had relied only on myself. More than once, members of my team have saved me from making a bad or stupid decision because they saw things I didn’t see, drew from experience I didn’t have, or shared wisdom they possessed that I lacked. Their thinking has elevated my ability, and for that I am very grateful.