One of the common misperceptions of leaders is that they are the people with all the answers. After all, leaders are the ones who know what needs to be done next, right? Actually, the best leaders are not the ones that have the right answers, but the ones that ask the right questions.
Asking the Right Questions
Asking the right questions, and doing it the right way is a bit of an art. Here are six questions that can trigger a healthy discussion that may well change the way you lead and help bring the results you hope for.
- Why are we doing this? It is important that your entire organization (church, company, non-profit, etc.) connects with “the why” of your mission. At ILI we are constantly reminded that we do what we do (including this blog) for the sake of the two-thirds of the world who are still lost without Christ.
- What does success look like for us? This one is about having a set of metrics that you can track and improve over time. If you are familiar with SMART goals, the “M” stands for “measurable.” As Peter Drucker famously said, “if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.”
- Is there a simpler way to do it? It is always easy to complicate things than to simplify. As a public speaker, I am well aware that it takes much more time and effort to prepare for a 15-minute talk than for a one hour rant.
- Who can help us? This one is about partnerships. There are certainly other people with greater expertise or experience in the particular need we are trying to meet. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. Someone said great things can be accomplished for God if we don’t care who gets the credit.
- What is holding us back? Another truth in leadership is that obstacles are a normal (and sometimes frequent) aspect of leadership. Sometimes they are imposed on us, but on other occasions, we create circumstances that hold us back and keep us from accomplishing God’s purposes.
- What should we stop doing? This one is about priorities. To say yes to what is really priority (God’s purpose) means saying no to everything else. (here is a post about this issue)
A Couple Thoughts on Questions
Did you notice all the questions are for “we?” Pardon the bad grammar, but I think you get the point. Leadership is not about one person, but about a team of people striving to accomplish God’s purposes.
Did you also notice that there are no “yes or no” answers? The best way to end a conversation is to ask a “yes and no” question. Open-ended questions, like the ones above start conversations, facilitate engagement, and value the opinion of others.
What to do After Asking
One final thought. What we do after asking is just as important as asking. I suppose you know the answer by now. For a post I wrote on the subject, click here.