Powerful Insights from Questions You Hear

Dingbats don’t ask questions. Smart people ask powerful questions.

Geniuses gain insights from the questions they hear.

You might feel like Mr./Ms. big britches when people ask you questions. But lousy leaders hear more questions than skillful.

Leaders who repeatedly hear, “Is it OK if…,” are lousy leaders.

“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” Lao Tzu

Skillful leaders know what to notice. You’ll be a better leader if you notice the questions you hear.

Geniuses gain insight from the questions they hear. Image of a pile of question marks.

Questions you hear:

Permission-asking questions.

You have better things to do than give permission. Frequent permission asking suggests disempowered people.

Notice the people who frequently ask permission. What’s behind their need for permission?

  1. Eliminate personal behaviors that create reluctance in others – tweaking, second-guessing, and punishing responsible mistake-making, for example.
  2. Clarify role, responsibility, and authority. Some people ask permission because they don’t know how much authority you’ve given.
  3. Teach people to take initiative. Use the “I intend to,” method. Instead of permission-asking, have people tell you what they intend to do. (See Marquet)

Real leaders give authority, not permission.

Real leaders give authority, not permission. Image of cartoon people standing around a leader.

Decision-making questions.

When people repeatedly ask you to make decisions for them…

  1. Explore responsibilities. People who ask you to decide for them want you to be responsible.
  2. Clarify goals. When goals are unclear people need permission more frequently.
  3. Explain values. The playing field of good decision-making is values.

Conflict-resolution questions.

People want you to choose sides when there’s conflict between people. Don’t!

Explore what’s best for the team before exploring what’s best for individuals.

Tip: The first question to ask when people repeatedly seek permission, decisions, or guidance is, “What have you tried?”

What are you learning from the questions people ask you?

Still curious:

The Ten Principles of Permission-Giving

Moving from Top-Down to All-In