Three Powerful Questions Every Leader Must Ask
Effective leaders have many skills. But without a doubt, the great ones know how to ask good questions so they can learn new things, distinguish fact from fiction, problem-solve and innovate for their organizations. Truth is, as a leader, the questions you ask of others often don’t have to be complicated—they just have to be the right ones. So get in the habit of asking good questions of your people and what’s going on in your organization. Being a curious leader, who is open and proactive about getting the right answers, will make a difference in your success. It’s both a vital leadership trait and a solid strategy for building credibility, moving your organization forward, and getting consistent results.
Here are three practical, powerful questions effective leaders learn how to ask:
Question #1: What’s the goal?
Asking and answering this straightforward question is sort of like taking a shortcut for where you want to go. Specify it, and it will provide clarity, give you better direction, improve execution, and keep you focused on what matters. Use the phrase, asking “What’s the goal?” as you undertake your vital leadership responsibilities and even when managing the minutia at work—holding quick meetings, planning your day/week/month, managing email communications, etc. Ask it as you address your own performance as well as when coaching your direct reports. Drive this habit down and through the organization, and you’ll likely find your employees are more productive, goal-oriented and results-focused.
Question #2: Why?
At work, there’s often the tendency to worry about how things are getting done, as in “How will we do this?” or “How could that be happening?” To some degree, determining “how” is a survival skill, ingrained in us from the time we are young. But asking “Why?” forces us to go deeper and get to the root of an issue, situation or challenge. Answering it typically sheds great light on what’s really going on, for example, why something is happening, being allowed, or done a certain way. It creates transparency and supports the potential to reach goals through a more open, accountable culture that’s not afraid to challenge norms and the potential of both the organization and its people. In short, this one powerful word can be a catalyst for a whole lot of success.
Question #3: Why not?
Utter these two little words and now things feel exciting, even downright dangerous. Why dangerous? Because when you ask “Why not?” you’re heading into uncharted territory by doing more than just challenging someone or something. This is way bigger than just getting the real scoop. You’re drawing into question a realm of possibilities about what could be…and you’re even inviting people to imagine, dream and create! In short, “Why not?” is about considering alternatives, even risks. And we all know that some of the greatest, most successful leaders and companies are renown for risk (and results). Why? Because they aren’t afraid. They routinely dare to ask “Why not?”
What other questions have made a difference in your leadership impact?