Note on THE SUMMER REFLECTION SERIES: From the very beginning, the sole purpose of THE PORCH has been to create a space to ponder the subtle issues of business and life. In the almost 250 issues, no two issues have been alike. The SUMMER REFLECTION SERIES changes that as we circle-back to three of the most popular articles. As one of my favorite spiritual teachers, Jim Finley, often says: Repetition is not redundancy. I hope you find this to especially be true, through these summer months, as I pull from the archives AND fine-tune the original expression. No doubt, you will be seeing each of these summer issues from a different moment in life … which always gives us the opportunity to see it in a new way. Today, in a time of so much division, often generated by opinions and beliefs stuck in the concrete of certainty, I reached back almost a full decade into the evergreen archives to call upon the reflection shared in the June 2013 issue of “The Porch.” As it was intended to do then, in what was a much different context from which we live in today, I hope it wonderfully raises far more questions rather than stirring your desires for new answers. So pull up a chair and let’s dive-in!
Questions matter. Our intentionality in asking questions significantly impacts our ability to lead. Questions fuel curiosity, insight, and discovery. They have the potential to relationally create connection.
In whatever context one’s current leadership might be, effective leadership has a lot more to do with the questions I ask rather than the directions I give. The question at hand is … how effectively am I able to ask questions?
It’s about moving from questionable to question-able!
In my years in Firmwide Recruiting at Arthur Andersen, I first discovered the power of “question” while working on a team to develop a sophisticated behavioral interviewing methodology. I was amazed to discover how short simple questions, intentionally and consistently asked at the right time and for the right reason, could take a common story to a very revealing level. In this process, I learned that our ability to effectively ask questions was directly linked to our ability to actively listen. The combination of the two enabled me to effectively probe a discussion. The result delivered exponential value.
It would be years later that I would further discover the importance of questions from my good friend and Master Certified Coach, Mary Jo Hazard. She helped me see how thoughtful questions help us avoid telling others what they “should do” and instead allows us to help them discover for themselves what they “need to do.”
It is amazing how questions, used with good intention, help you probe beneath the veneer of most any conversation.
Questions can also reveal your genuine interest.
In professional circles, I have often challenged audiences to consider their approach to networking with others. Are you going to be interesting … or interested? There is a big difference when it comes to connection. Over the years, hundreds of people have confessed to me that they are just not good at networking. I usually respond: Sure you are … you probably just need to become more effective and more intentional in asking questions. Often, networking is ineffective because initial conversations are made up of lots of statements and soundbites by all those involved in the conversation. Put to the test, I think you would find that the quality of a networking conversation (and the results that may follow) are in direct proportion to the percentage of the conversation driven by thoughtful questions. On the other hand, certainty and being all-knowing can often lead to a predictable boredom and ultimately a sense of arrogance.
Questions even play an important role in our own internal conversations. They are a powerful tool in enhancing our self-awareness. They also enhance the authenticity of our spiritual journey. Our faith, itself, is enriched by our doubts and the questions that follow. Doubt is not the opposite of faith … it is the engagement of it. And questions are an inevitable part of that engagement. Genuine ownership is dependent on this very personal experience.
Questions are also an inevitable part of effective leadership.
Yet, with all that said … questions, for the sake of questions, can be lethal. I have certainly been accused, by my children, of asking too many questions. I didn’t take it as a compliment!
As leaders, we must be aware and accountable as to where our questions originate. We need to understand what fuels our motives in asking them. I would suggest there is a direct correlation between the quality of our questions and the connection we have to our own core. In other words, a conscious awareness of our own personal core values enhances our ability to ask great questions. My friend, Mary Jo, draws an important correlation in how questions can become a powerful reflection of an individual’s core value. She notes, for instance, how someone’s core value of “respect” can fuel a healthy curiosity in their conversation with others. It’s not just about mastering a skill of questioning or trying to look interested … it is an expression of respect that is directed by our core.
Without an awareness of our own personal core, our questions tend to be more reactionary than responsive. And, with every conversation, a leader misses an incredible moment of truth to enhance a connection.
Core values, by design, cause us to question things. In causing us to question, they open our eyes to see things more clearly. They guide us. And sometimes the very questions we thoughtfully ask, give us a deeper insight into the very core value that is guiding us. Ironically, it is by intentionally following these core values … that we are able to lead.
So, as a leader, just how question-able are you? I’m asking myself the same question!
As always, I would LOVE for you to share your own insight below. Or, better yet, the question your insight stirs within you!
John, so that’s why you were eager for me to come and enJOY time on the Porch with y’all today! Yes, you and I have asked each other powerful questions that come from our cores over the years, haven’t we?
Congrats on completing the learning of The Living School! Now, what’s the question you are holding in your heart as you continue to live that learning?
Can’t wait to share again sometime soon.
Mary Jo … thanks for sitting on the porch this month and contributing to the conversation. And THANK YOU for being a great role model of asking great questions. I also appreciate your good wishes on completing the Living School (not that the Living School is ever really completed … which is why you don’t graduate … you are sent!). And they leave you with a meaningful question: From this experience, what is uniquely mine to do? The word “uniquely” makes the question for meaningful, in my opinion! We do have a closing paper to write on this question between now and October 31st. I will be pondering this question, as all great questions deserve!