In a prior post, The TAO of Leadership (Annoying Truths: Ignore at Your Peril) I presented 7 truths (and one bonus truth) that, if internalized, will help you become a leader others want to follow.
Accept that you will forget all these truths at times–perhaps several times a day. That’s the bad news. The good news is that you have access to…
Conversation Training Wheels
You don’t have to be perfect to create a safe, inspiring environment that evokes brilliant commitment and performance. You just have to ask good questions.
Ask these questions to anyone you want to inspire or build relationship with: (Note, these are not in a sequential flow: insert as relevant into your conversation).
- “What support do you need from me?”
- “What ideas do you have?”
- “How did you come to that conclusion?”
- “How’s it working?”
- “How can you tell?”
- “What could I do better?”
- “What else?”
Note: 2 rules apply when asking these questions.
Rule #1. Phrasing matters. All these questions begin with the words What or How for a reason. Do not begin with Do, Did, Does, Could or Why unless you want to put someone on the defensive, and thus, lessen their ability to think rationally. You might as well just tell people what to do. It’s more honest.
Rule #2. Tone & expression matter. Ask with a curious, non-threatening tone that signals you will not eat, maim, fire, ridicule, or otherwise injure the person no matter their response. Practice assuming a non-threatening posture and facial expression. Don’t even think about rolling your eyes.
Use the Wheels
As smart and clever as you are, you’ll be tempted to come up with your own way of asking the questions. DON’T DO IT. Not at least until you are very practiced at asking these questions and making these statements as written. Write them on a note, put them in your iPad or phone and just ask. Then be quiet while you let the person think. If it helps, count to five (silently, so they don’t think you’ve lost your mind). Once they get over the shock, they may offer a complete response. Or, more likely, they may test the waters and give you only what they think you want to hear. Don’t fall for this. Just ask another open question until you feel you have an open, complete response. If in doubt, ask “What else?”
Most leaders tell too much and ask too little. So try to ask more 3 times more often than you typically would.
When you do make statements, try these.
- “I’m still a little unclear. Please say more about that.”
- “Take a break. Come back to it when you’re fresh.”
- “We’re in this together. Let’s figure it out.”
- “I have an opinion, but I only have a sliver of the truth. I’d like to hear what you think.”
- “I appreciate ____ ” (fill in the blank with a quality about them that they care about and that you believe).
- “I don’t know.”
- “I screwed up. I’m truly sorry.”
- “Thank you.”
Until mastery, practice clumsily and often until one day, you notice yourself surrounded by a voluntary army of inspired followers.
We’d love to hear how it goes.
from Kate Nasser: Killer Questions that Don’t Ask