How to Capture Attention and Establish Trajectory
Frank Lloyd Wright said an expert is someone who has “stopped thinking because he ‘knows.’”*
I ignored Warren Berger’s email. It arrived on February 24, 2014, and sat in my inbox for weeks. He’s written, “A More Beautiful Question.” It sounded boring.
I don’t need another book about questions. I’m the most curious question-asker I know. Leaders hire me to ask questions. I’m an expert. But, Warren’s email wouldn’t go away.
Knowledge closes minds; ignorance opens them.
You may be smart, but in a world where knowledge grows exponentially, no one knows.
The most dangerous lie leaders believe is they know.
Warren and I finally connected. I hate to admit it, but, he’s as passionate about questions as I am. Worse yet, he’s thought about questions in ways that hadn’t occurred to me.
For example, what if your mission statement ended with a question mark? Statements are final and boring. Warren says they may even be arrogant.
Questions are invitations.
A mission question says, “This is what we’re striving for – we know we’re not there yet, but we’re on the journey.”*
The feeling of “not yet” pulls you forward.
We love answers, at first. But, answers become outdated burdens with time.
A beautiful question lasts a lifetime.
Questions capture attention and establish trajectory. Your organization answers questions. What are they?
Everything you do is the answer to a question.
Connection happens when questions align. What if you create an organizational document titled, “These are the questions we’re answering?”
I’ve been answering three questions for ten years.
- Why did I suck at leadership for so long?
- How can I be a better leader today?
- How can I help others develop their leadership?
What questions are you answering?
What are your organization’s questions?
This is excellent. Questions, designed to open dialogue, are the windows to further learning. Questions, designed to block and obfuscate, serve the opposite need.
Thanks Rajiv. Glad you brought up the dark side of questions. Poorly crafted questions are distractions. “Bad” – unuseful – questions are waste time and resources.
Thanks Dan, this post made me think about people I have worked with who have a high position or title, but no one seems to follow, and I ask: Are they a leader? I observe others who have no special position or title, yet people seem to follow them and I think: What are they doing differently that people follow them and where are they going?
This time of year I look at the ducklings all lined up walking behind their mothers and think “Wow, that’s leadership!” and I remember that leadership is defined by looking over your shoulder, if no one is following, you are not a leader. If people are following, it does not matter what your position is, you are a leader.
Thanks Duane. It doesn’t take a title or position to ask a great question. Asking and working to answer great questions is a fundamental act of leadership.
You make a great point. The leader in a group is the one people follow, most often due to expertise and/or trust if they don’t have positional power.
When grading oneself in Leadership, perhaps you need to seek others to get a full picture,I always felt you are an excellent Leader!
Being a better Leader, requires becoming a better Listener, a precise speaker, more direct, less fluff, honest to your peers and yourself!
Helping others often requires patience, fortitude and desire to name a few.
Have a great Day!
Thanks Tim. I appreciate your affirmation. Thankfully, you didn’t know me when I was young and thought I was a leader to be followed!
Being a better listener includes asking better questions and listening to the answer. 🙂
Have a great day!
Oh, in that case, the tree continues to grow to great heights!
Cheers as you so like to say!
I think the questions you are asking yourself are perfect for anyone who is a leader. We can all learn to ask even more powerful questions that could inspire and motivate ourselves, our teams and our organizations to transform.
Thanks for sharing!
Thanks Cindy. BTW, one main reason I sucked at leadership so long is arrogance. Ouch!
Questions I ask myself:
Then I listen for answers. When answers whisper, I try to be courageous enough to follow their suggestions.
I also love the question, “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?”
That reveals the truth about what is inside any of us.
If I can challenge myself with these questions, then maybe I can be a role model for others…a leader.
Thanks Dauna. LOVE LOVE… “What’s next?” It powerful drags us into the future. I think “what’s next” even works when someone has failed. Rather than constantly picking at the scab just ask, “What’s next?” Their answer indicates how well they have processed/learned from their failure.
Create a Why so EPIC you have to tell somebody!!!
I did! I will end World Poverty!!
Why? Momma has Alzheimer’s, gonna do something cool before she can’t remember and got to do something to impress HER!!
Some dopes send flowers I figure ending global poverty would do the trick!!!
See why big enough compels one to act!
I then started The Movement To Better!! Made a video, now we are rolling!
Next contact major organizations of do gooders and share how AIM Academy creates the shift we need to connect Unlimited Traffic with Unlimited Products with effective middlemen, not middlemen!
This continues to Unlimited Franchises, no need for brick and mortar businesses for every transaction. The ones that can be done online, use them.
Since no brick and mortar required only Internet connection geography for commerce is no longer needed for those transactions. Brick and mortar still gonna be here cause we might want to go out to eat!!
Going to get 1000 franchisees by Sept 1 2014. The go to folks I want as Faculty and ask then if they want 20% of what they can help these people make….I am no math whiz but I think that is 20,000%. The online marketing best in the works guys can then decide if they want 20,000% the first year, 10% after or continue this money making thingy making 100% of their own efforts!!!! No brainer, right???
Thing is Unlimited Franchises, why stop at 1000? 1000 ain’t Unlimited, duh!!!!
Point is Dan, all this resulted from making that WHY, epically large!!!
Now any of you Leaders want to help, get in touch! Lets make it happen! Today you have been contacted!!
Join the Movement to Better!!
EA. ps if ya wanna help, take ur pick, my blog needs help, my video needs redoing, need an advisory board!! Just if you believe what I believe help however u can with what you can do I can’t!! Simple cooperatin, right?
Thanks Scott. How might your vision become a great question?
Great Question!!!!! Thanks Dan!!
How is that on a blog with interesting loving smart interested people a fella stands up and says I got the missing link to global poverty and everyone sits back chewing their cud?? Hehe Listen, I hear how implausible it sounds, but so did going to the moon at first.
The thing is the fix is so simple it is ridiculous.
Traffic and Products are givens, only the role of the middleman has to be tweaked. Do that and that dog will hunt!!
The sad thing is apathy!! Guy goes into a bar asks the stranger sitting there what worse ignorance or apathy? Stranger replies I don’t know and I don’t care!!
For me ignorance is way better, one can always learn something!!
Thing is what if what I say is true, and it is. One person other than me could ask to look over how I am going to do this and report back to the pack.
You are all going to feel stupid when I am on Ellen’s couch explaining how all this came about and I share the places I started sharing and no one listened.
Did run into who I think is going to be my business partner this morning.
Now I got a video, a blog. A fail proof plan, guy listened to me for 20 minutes and asked me why nobody ever thought if that.
The answer is because everyone tries to look at stuff from the insider point if view. I come among not shackled by that, fix sitting right there.
Dude asked if we could start to work together and I said yep, need help!!!!
So question is Dan, what is the effective call to action because I sincerely believe all of you are apathetic.
“If you don’t have a question, you don’t have a clue; if you aren’t searching you are truly lost.” – McZen
Thanks Joe! so gooood
I love the simplicity and poignancy of this post
I also appreciate your honesty and humility
Keep them coming
Thanks Lori. It feels good to be encouraged.
How can I deliver value here?
How can I leave the campsite better than I found it?
I would like to answer third question- ” How can I help others develop their leadership”? I believe that people have potential and can be developed to become what they want to achieve. They have capability to become what they want. But many times they do not know what they want. And that is why they do not know which path to follow. Secondly they also do not know their potential and even it they know it, they lack confidence. As a leader, I would try to know their potential and provide them various option in order to understand them. Then I would convince them with various options and options suitable based on their potential. In the process, the most challenging task is to fill them with confidence. They should feel motivated from within.
Any organization can follow these technique to boost confidences. They can achieve even difficult goal with greater confidence. I think any leader can develop and groom leadership quality in any ordinary person.
Thanks Dr. Gupta. The word “want” stands out to me. People who desire to grow or become leaders can do so. Sometimes our enthusiasm for someone outstrips their enthusiasm for themself. I find that frustrating and need to learn to pull back so people can find their own passion.
Answers to finite questions are briefly thrilling upon discovery, but become old news tomorrow.
Answers to deep theological (sometimes misunderstood or misguided) questions, have infinite value in being unknown, and would lose infinite value formulated “proof” of a definitive answer.
Answers to personal questions lie outside of the internet and psychology textbooks.
Answers to a lifelong question involve a lifelong journey.
Thanks John. “briefly thrilling…” Sometimes the thrilling overtakes the substantial.
Questions open doors to discovery, understanding and acceptance.
Thanks Painting…yes they at least open the door…but it takes answers to step through those open doors.. .;-)
Our very effective LED (Leadership & Employee Development) team put together a training session on Asking Powerful Questions. I almost thought about seeing if we could invite you to check it out 🙂
Thanks James. Next time give me a call. 🙂
Dan, you are absolutely correct! Asking questions persuades…making statements raises hackles. If you’re the one talking, you’re not in control of the conversation…the guy making you talk by asking questions is the real conductor!
So here’s mine: What’s your favorite question to ask new acquaintances?
Thanks Citizen… great observations.
Hmmm. Favorite question… “What challenges are you facing,” often inspires lively conversation.
That’s a great one! Going to test it out next chance I get!
I like how the statement ‘Questions are more powerful than statements’ is in fact a statement.
Irony aside (that wasn’t a criticism, it made me laugh), a really interesting article.
A good question is a workout for the mind and lends itself to new ideas and knowledge, but in times when decisions need to be made, are questions always more powerful than statements?
Thanks Ally… LOVE your observation… hilarious! I wonder why I did that?
Glad you stopped in.
Do you know any organizations where their mission statement actually ends with a question mark? As our organization is talking about renewal I’m trying to get my head around how this might work.
Thanks Mary Anne. Here’s one in Warren’s book:
Statement: “We make the world a better place through robotics.”
Statement: “How might we make the world a better place through robotics?”
I’ve been mulling this over for the organization I lead. I like the options but haven’t decided to bring it up yet.
Excellent! Over the years I have come to realize that the only way to learn is by asking questions over and over again. each time i feel that I have learnt a particular subject new avenues open up making me seek more about the subject. I have a question for you Dan- Are there better ways that we can seek and learn? awaiting your response
I think your focus on questions is a powerful entry into coaching conversations.
I love your point “A beautiful question lasts a lifetime.” Being in a religious tradition that prides itself in having “the answers” is a stumbling block for me as I have grown older and recognize that it is in our not knowing that we draw closer to the divine within us and others and all of creation. As a leader it is more important for me to invite the beautiful questions, to open something for people to think about rather than give them “an answer.” Thanks for your daily wisdom!
Excellent. One more question for leaders to ask their employees, “Is there anything else within my power that I can do to help you reach your goals?”
So, I didn’t read this until today. And earlier today I read a blog posting about what you should ask yourself at the end of the day. Of course, they are questions. Once again, a blow from the cosmic 2 by 4.
1. Did I love enough?2. Did I laugh enough? 3. Did I make a difference?