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.
Questions you hear:
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?
- Eliminate personal behaviors that create reluctance in others – tweaking, second-guessing, and punishing responsible mistake-making, for example.
- Clarify role, responsibility, and authority. Some people ask permission because they don’t know how much authority you’ve given.
- 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.
When people repeatedly ask you to make decisions for them…
- Explore responsibilities. People who ask you to decide for them want you to be responsible.
- Clarify goals. When goals are unclear people need permission more frequently.
- Explain values. The playing field of good decision-making is values.
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?
Ouch… I feel personally attacked… in a good way! As a new manager (wanna be leader) this is a great perspective. I have only supervised one person so far and many of these scenarios are familiar – some of it is likely due to my lack of experience. I plan to learn how to empower those around me as that is what has been gifted to me over the course of my career.
Thank you Dan
Thanks Shelby. You have my respect for your transparency. I wish you well on the journey.
Dear Dan, wow, my curiosity alert went way up! My personal growth goal for the year is to ask beautiful questions. Thank you for this post. I really like the framework of “Exploring what is best for team before asking what is best for individuals.” This framing is great. One question What questions should great leaders ask themselves, before engaging and listening to questions from others? Thanks Dan.
Thanks sisepuedeabc. What a great goal! I love asking a question that energizes others. When their eyes go bright I get fired up.
Questions to ask yourself before listening:
1. What do I admire about the person I’m listening to?
2. How do I want to show up. (For me that’s often with calm curiosity. My curiosity can feel a bit intimidating.)
3. Drucker suggested listening to what isn’t being said, which I find fascinating.
4. What are this person’s aspirations? Strengths? Objectives?
5. What do I need to set aside so I can pay attention?
6. What are my motivations for listening?
7. How open do you want to be during this conversation?
The above questions are a few that come to mind. I regularly use #1, #2, and #4.
What questions do you suggest?