By Jeremy Hudson, guest blogger
Jeremy is campus pastor of Fellowship Spring Hill in Springfield OH and CEO/Founder/Owner at Red Chair Leadership
“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!
Lavern & Ronda Nissley are co-directors of Encompass. Married since 1978, both enjoy coffee, riding their tandem bicycle and working together to build strong relationships.