A recent article inspired me on the topic of today’s blog. Inspiration works that way – it’s a gift that keeps on giving.
We sometimes neglect ways to inspire creativity and innovation within our team, whether that’s because we’re caught up in our own activities or because we think things are moving along smoothly and it’s therefore not necessary. But part of being a good leader and teacher means being continually aware of your role as Chief Inspiration Officer. We do that by adopting certain behaviors, and one of those behaviors is the ability to ask good questions that incubate ideas and solutions.
It doesn’t serve your business to always be the one providing direction and answers. You want your team to be resourceful. Asking good questions helps to accomplish that. It promotes creativity, tests the strength of an idea or position or process, and helps cultivate deeper thinking.
These types of questions work everywhere – in casual conversations, in planning sessions, in performance reviews. They also work well in discussions with clients. So we suggest you make them a part of your ongoing oversight and seriously shift into using them all the time.
Answers or suggestions that are given without much thought need to be arrested. As in lock them up! That’s because they are usually based on shallow information, and shallow information breeds shallow thought, which in turn can lead to shallow conclusions. This is how opportunities get missed, how errors get inserted into processes, and how assumptions aren’t based on fact. As a leader, your job is to re-explain or present the data or situation again, to slow things down and ask for reconsideration.
I Wonder …
Curiosity is a wonderful thing. As children, the world was full of wonder (still is) and we asked questions about it all the time. And those who answered our questions had to think carefully about how to phrase the answers so that we understood. Posing “I wonder why” and “I wonder if” questions to your team starts the process of wondering how things could be done differently.
Couldn’t We at Least?
This question is ideal for those times when discussions get bogged down or when opposing views seem intractable. It doesn’t really matter that you might not know where the answer to a “couldn’t we at least try (insert x, y or z)” question will lead. It might end up being, “Couldn’t we at least agree on (insert x, y or z)?” or “Couldn’t we at least start and consider the implications after lunch?”
How Can I Help?
Sometimes, you don’t want to be the answer, hero, or decision-maker. Sometimes we see that it’s important for others to take control. Lending your ear or a hand allows you to contribute, support and inspire problem-solving in others. Sometimes the first step in helping someone solve a problem is to help them define it, consider it and own it.
What Truly Matters?
This question works on a variety of levels. It can be a defuser, a way of teaching when to fold and walk away (aka when to pick your battles). It also helps illuminate the essence of complicated situations (aka not sweating the small stuff). It helps define important priorities from those that really aren’t. Not only is it a great question for posing to others, it’s a good one for asking oneself.
For more on these five questions, we recommend Wait, What? by James E. Ryan.