Recently, I had the awesome experience of being asked to be a guest blogger for Encompass Connection Center; a great organization that specializes in building better connections with the people we live, work and play with. Here is what I wrote...
“Jeremy, asking questions makes you look smart!”
I can hear those words ringing in my ears like they were said yesterday, not the twenty years ago when my dad said them to me.
He was gently yet firmly challenging a blindspot that was cropping up in my leadership abilities. I was under the impression that to be the leader on a team or in an organization meant you had knew better than everyone else what needed to be done and how. At that point in my youth, I was carrying myself like I was the smartest guy in any room I walked into. When presented with a problem, the absolute worst thing I could imagine saying in response was “I don’t know.” So, instead of digging into and learning about what was going on, I would make something up. Even if it was wrong. Because leaders are supposed to know things. After all, that was why you are the leader, right?
Do you work with a leader like that? Are you that leader?
But over the years, I have come to see the wisdom in what my father shared with me that day. By asking questions, not only does it make you look wiser as a leader (because you aren’t doubling down on something you probably made up on the spot), but it also is an effective tool for discovering and deploying the leadership abilities in those you are trying to lead. Asking questions as become my default position for any leadership situation in which I find myself in.
Here are 3 Questions that will make you look like a Great Leader when you ask them
1. What do you think we should do?
I find that the people I have the privilege of working with are talented and passionate people in their area. Chances are the people you work with are too, that is why they are doing what they do. But too often, they have had their leadership abilities shut down or shut off by leaders who also wanted to be the “smartest person in the room.’ By asking your team what they think needs to be done you are investing value on them as part of the team and you are recognizing the relevance of their experience. I find that, more often then not, the solution they offer is exactly what needs to be implemented. Sometimes, its even better then the idea I was going to throw out.
2. What are other teams like ours doing?
Recently Rick Warren, (best selling author of The Purpose Driven Life) gave a TEDx Talk called “How to Stay Relevant.” In it he said “When the speed of change around an organization is faster than the speed of the change inside the organization, the organization becomes irrelevant.” As a leader, it is not our role to come up with the next good idea—it's to make sure ours is a space where great ideas happen. Asking your team to think outside the ‘four walls’ of your organization is, in fact, a way to give them permission to change, to stay current and to be better at what they do.
3. What would it look like if we were wildly successful?
On May 25, 1961 President John F. Kennedy informed Congress that America would put a man on the surface of the moon within the next nine years. It was an almost ludicrous thing to say, because our space program could barely do more than find the moon at night, let alone be able to land someone on it. Yet, it lit the nation on fire. And just as Kennedy had promised, nine years later Neil Armstrong stood on the lunar edge of the Sea of Tranquility. This proves what can be unleashed within the human spirit when a leader paints for them a picture of something great to be chased after. Getting your team to think about being wildly successful inspires them.
So, take your team members to the next level by asking questions that empower and inspire them. You really don't have all the answers; but you can ask the right questions!
For more information on how you can increase the leadership
in your teams, visit www.redchairleader.com
And why you should join them in doing so...
Often, when I speak or write on leadership, I do so from a perspective of what I’ve learned or observed as one leading others. This blog, however, comes from a unique experience where I was the beneficiary of the effectiveness of good leadership.
Several months ago, my boss approached me and a coworker asking if the two of us, along with our wives, would be interested in joining him and his wife for a conference on the west coast. Furthermore, he explained that the cost would be covered for all of us!
We took some time to think about it…and 30 seconds later all four of us had readily agreed to go!
We spent several days in sunny California, attending main and breakout sessions, as well as doing some hiking, eating delicious food, and having great talks while exploring the Napa Valley. On our way home I was struck by the rich effect this time together had on me. I could feel the connection of relationship getting stronger; not only with the people I work with—but also with their family members.
Shared Experiences are a key ingredient in cultivating and maintaining healthy teams...
A Shared Experience is a moment, activity, encounter or event that is extra-ordinary in nature and for the sole purpose of being experienced with other members of the team.
I want to suggest THREE positive results that Shared Experiences can have on your team. But first, lets clear up two common misunderstandings about shared experiences that, left un-addressed, will detract from the desired effectiveness.
For starters, extra-ordinary doesn’t have to be extraordinary. These moments designed to help your team share life together do not have to be tremendous trips or extravagant endeavors. Granted trips to California are fantastic, especially when you live and work in the midwest, but trips to get ice cream can be just as sweet (pun intended). In fact, I have talked to people who have been given trips like cruises and vacations by their companies. Generally their feedback is that while it was a nice reward for success at work, but it didn’t leave them feeling more connected to their team or their leadership.
Next, don’t miss the fact that the sole purpose of creating a Shared Experience has to be the generation of camaraderie and team unity. These cannot come off as a negotiations or bargaining for motivation. People know when they are being manipulated under the guise of “fun.”
Right after I graduated from college, I went to work for a team that (which I discovered after I joined) had a reputation for low team morale. There was a high staff turnover and the team culture bordered on toxic. Every summer, the leadership would give the entire organization a half-day off so they could attend a company cookout. Even though it resembled a Shared Experience, the unspoken understanding by the whole team was that this was a ‘head fake” in the direction of team building. The event was set up to make it feel that the leadership was concerned about the morale, but it didn’t connect. It came off contrived and not genuine. Especially because you “given” the time off if you came to the cookout, otherwise you had to stay at work.