Lead by how you Ask Questions
CO2 Partners founder Gary Cohen is not alone in his remarkable approach to leadership: ask questions to build alignment, engagement and accountability. In this series of posts, I am discussing “Change Your Questions, Change Your Life” by Marilee Adams, MSW, Ph.D. She offers 10 very powerful tools to improve communication–both personally and professionally by how you ask questions. Today, I’ll focus on tools 3 & 4.
Tool 3: Ask Yourself LEARNER Questions
What do you say when you talk to yourself (see the Shad Helmstetter book on this topic)? Would you ask yourself the following questions:
- What is the weather going to be like today?
- Is this the best furniture they can buy for their office?
- Should I bring both casual and business attire on this trip?
- When will he stop micro-managing me?
- What is this dinner going to cost me?
- What questions do I need to ask to move forward with this project?
- Is that guy for real?
We have the option of posing how we ask questions that make us a JUDGER or a LEARNER. Look at the above questions again and decide for yourself if the question is posed to judge or if the question is posed to gain further insight. Can you see the difference? Better yet, can you feel the difference?
When you’re in learner mode, you’re more likely to seek a solution than harp on a problem. You might look online for the weather forecast and then make a plan if the forecast calls for rain. You will feel positive, curious, and empowered.
When you’re in judger mode, you tend to grouse about the problem without getting any closer to solving it. In fact, you’re probably trying to distance yourself from the problem. As a result, you will feel critical, isolated, and disinclined to act.
If you ask yourself, “Why does the IT staff always screw up?” not only will you feel a lot of negative energy and inertia, but that energy will likely seep into your interactions with others–especially the IT staff. Instead, pose a LEARNER question: “How can I best work with the IT staff on this issue?” The question alone will open your mind to new possibilities. The more your ask questions as a learner, the more fit you’ll be to lead and assist others.
Tool 4: Ask Others LEARNER Questions
The more you ask questions to yourself as a learner, the more you’ll start to verbalize them to others. When you stay in LEARNER mode and off the JUDGER path, you will feel better and your employees will soar because of it. They’ll get a sense that you’re all in it together. They’ll see that curiosity and learning are valued. And more problems will get solved rather than just criticized.