Excerpted from “Great Leaders ASK Questions – A Fortune 100 List”

“Leadership is not as much about knowing the right answers, as it is about knowing the right questions.”

Are you familiar with T.A.? You are probably familiar with A.A. – Alcoholics Anonymous. Well, T.A. stands for “Tellers Anonymous!”

I have an addiction – I am addicted to telling! At T.A. meetings I stand up and introduce myself: “My name is Bob and I am a teller.”

Today, I am a recovering teller. However, the temptation to “lead by telling” has never left me.

You could say that my e-book – sharing my favorite questions with you – is part of my recovery program, as is my blog: LeadingWithQuestions.com.  Leading with questions takes preparation, intentionality, discipline and practice. Good news! If I can move from telling to asking, so can you!

My Favorite Questions:

What do you think?

If you were in a row boat with your team, how many of them would you want to have row? Might your answer be all of them? How happy would you be if you ended up being the only one rowing?  Probably not so much.

Why then would you want to tackle the challenges, opportunities, problems, and changes needed in your company by telling your staff what they should do? Why would you not want to get all their oars in the water by asking them, “What do you think?” This one simple step has the potential to notably increase your leadership effectiveness!

How do you feel when your boss, colleague, or friend asks you: “What do you think about this challenge or opportunity?”

Valued? Respected? Esteemed? Appreciated?

How might those you supervise, your colleagues, or your friends feel when you ask them: “What do you think about this challenge, opportunity, or issue?”

No time to learn a new skill?

Maybe you are like many folks I meet, who share that they would love to learn to “Lead With Questions,” but are not sure they have time to learn this new skill.

I share with them that I can teach them how to do so in less than 30 seconds! All they have to do is memorize these 4 questions:

  1. What do you think?
  2. What else?
  3. What else?
  4. What else?

Can you now close your eyes and repeat back these 4 questions? Congratulations! You are on your way to leading with questions – and in less than 30 seconds!

You will find that sometimes the greatest thoughts will come from the third time you ask, “What else?” When others feel your appreciation for their responses, they begin to feel safe to share their very best thoughts. And you will be the beneficiary!

Would you like to know the 4 questions one consultant uses to make a six figure income?

  1. “What is going well?”
  2. “What’s not?”
  3. “Where are you stuck?”
  4. “What needs to change?”

He shares that the order above is very important, and starting with “What is going well?” is absolutely essential. In fact, he will spend half of the time on question one, because the time he spends cheering their successes is what creates a safe environment for asking questions two through four.

Brainstorming Freeze?

Has your team ever gotten stuck in brainstorming what might be the best possible ways forward? Would you like a backup question that will instantly get them un-stuck?  Here it is:

“How can we do this (whatever your team needs to do) in a way that will guarantee its failure?”

Your team will invariably not only begin to answer – but they will also enjoy this almost comic exercise.

After they have compiled a sure-fire list of how to guarantee failure, then ask item by item:

“What, then, do we need to do to guarantee success?”

One Word Questions?

Another effective form of questioning is to simply listen for emotionally charged words and then repeat them with a questioning inflection in your voice. For example:

  • She/He says: “What a frustrating day!” You ask: “Frustrating?”
  • She/He says: “I am so exasperated!” You ask: “Exasperated?”
  • She/He says: “I am just going to quit!” You ask: “Quit?”

Worst to First?

Navy Commander D. Michael Abrashoff used 3 questions to turn around the operations of the USS Benfold, one of the U.S. Navy’s most modern warships – from worst to first.

Almost immediately upon taking command, he had fifteen minute personal interviews with each of his staff of 300.  He asked each person these three questions:

  1. What do you like best about this ship?
  2. What do you like least?
  3. What would you change if you could?

Fact or Opinion?

Do your staff/peers/leaders ever make statements that you suspect may not actually be true? World War II General George S. Patton was known for his quip:

“How do you know that?”

This is a profoundly simple and effective method for sorting out opinion from fact.

You have just enjoyed a few of the over 100 questions in Bob Tiede’s free eBook “Great Leaders ASK Questions – A Fortune 100 list.”  You can get all 100 by clicking “HERE” to request the free download of his eBook and/or MP3 Audio book.

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