How to Be a Genius in Seven Questions
At the beginning, you offer answers. In the end it’s about questions.
The right answer is always preceded by the right question.
Ego inflates when people look to you for answers. As time passes, pressure mounts to be right. The trouble is, all answers are imperfect, unless it’s math.
The rightness of an answer is always a matter of degree. Leaders escalate stress when they propagate the all-knowing-I’ve-got-it-right myth.
Ego needs to know. Humility needs to ask.
Some organizations expect leaders to have answers, when you don’t, you’re weak or inadequate. But, in truth, it’s institutional helplessness that makes others expect answers from you.
Learn to include everyone in the search for solutions.
People who find their own solutions, respect you for helping. But, when you give them the answer, they end up needing you more.
Frequently, a coaching client thanks me for helping. But, really, I just helped them help themselves. People feel empowered when they craft their own solutions.
Join the process; don’t give the solution.
When you offer answers, offer them as options. You don’t have the answer. You have an answer.
Become a genius by trusting the genius of others.
7 questions to genius:
- What do you think?
- What do the people on the front line think?
- What do our customers think?
- What do our suppliers think?
- What might our competitors think?
- What options are possible?
- Which options seem best to you?
The more you include others, the smarter you become.
Develop an organizational culture that views all solutions as imperfect.
- Build in evaluation. In 30 days ask, “How is our solutions working?”
- In 30 days ask, “How might we make this solution better?”
- Use “we” instead of “me.”
- Ask, “What are we learning?”
- Repeat over and over, “All solutions are imperfect.”
Bonus: Perfect as you go, not before.
How might leaders create organizations that look around, rather than up, for answers?
How might leaders transition away from the all-knowing-leader myth?
Love the use of asking good questions – we learn better that way and expand possibilities. But the most powerful idea today is building in follow up in 30 days. Decisions made today need us to reflect on their effectiveness during the implementation process – not just a year from now as a part of an annual review.
Thanks Vicki. Glad you expanded this idea. If we aren’t careful, a solution makes us feel we have arrived. In reality, it’s just another step in the journey.
I agree that the follow-up is key. Not to be the odd guy in this, but I think while questions are critical, theytoo often can be over-used. I’ve had to work with my team to not just ask the client what they want but to also suggest ideas based on their knowledge of the situation. And personally, I have been barraged with questions too many times from people who are smart but don’t want to truly engage.
Dan, Good as usual!
Tip # 5 solutions resolves issues, they can be perfect or imperfect pending what the problem Through our experience we tend to complex things when we add options. If it works? Great! We can make it better? Do it, as I see it the solution is only satisfactory if they approve it, and in whose eyes do we need approval, could be a code issue, we then go the the AHJ (Authority have jurisdiction), could be a meeting resolution, we go to the approving individuals etc…Perfection is in the eyes of the beholder.
Happy 1st day of Spring!
Thanks Tim. If I understand your approach, don’t make a solution too complex. Take action quickly.
You addition of who defines perfection is fascinating.
Dan, Yes, we tend to complex things sometimes, however some solutions are complex,not a quick fix either, sometimes we are only as good as our knowledge basis! So learn all we can! Cheers
The ability to ask questions skillfully is also at the heart of meeting facilitation. The right questions can lead teams to amazing results and can help keep them on track better than statements. Thanks, Dan.
Thanks Steven. You took us to a very specific and useful application. People who lead meetings tend to talk too much and ask too little.
Question-asking has often been called the seeking behavior of the learner. Since we are lifelong learners it is obvious, then, that we continue to hone this valuable skill.
As e.e. cummings once noted: “Always the beautiful answer who asks a more beautiful question.”
Thanks Ann. You life question asking above a simple activity.
When we verbalize the question, we process the thoughts in our analytic side of the brain with the verbal side – in essence bringing more grey matter to bear on the problem. Often asking a question that allows the person to verbalize the issue helps them solve the issue themselves with you just listening.
Thanks Bill. Now I know why we come up with better answers when we start asking questions. It’s true. Just articulating the question helps.
Hi Dan Daniel bachmann sent me, said it was the best leadership post he had read all week. I agree! step aside from the all-knowing leader persona and ask questions.
I chair a safety committee each month. It took some effort to keep this group focused and to turn it around from being a coffee-club complaint session. I learned to ask them to please bring a solution or two to the table, instead of just complaints. They’re the ones who would have to live with any solution, so they had a choice–complain and have the solution imposed upon them (which of course made them complain more), or take suggestions from me and develop a solution that works with their particular operation. They’re the subject-matter experts on their particular jobs. They know I respect that, and our meetings are a lot more productive than they used to be. I love that solutions come from this group, and not just from me.
Asking questions is also a great way for leaders to build the strengths of the team. When asking great questions, we fuel the fire of discovery within our teams and build within them to explore their own thoughts and ideas. When we as leaders believe that we have the answers, we build helplessness within our teams.
Couldn’t agree more with “People who find their own solutions, respect you for helping. But, when you give them the answer, they end up needing you more.”
I was told, quite often acctually, that I ask way too many questions. I am not saying that all of them are the right question, but some of them are! First of all, I am a curios person, and I do think that every questions has “an” answer, (not “the answer”). And I firmly think that all questions are good for us, there are no stupid questions, or inappropriate questions, we just need to find the right time and person to get our answer.
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