Rethinking Leadership Infographic was developed by Sammi Cohen. To develop your own infographic, reach out to Sammi Cohen.
In working with leaders, I have found asking questions is a sorely undervalued technique. Many equate asking questions with losing power, looking like a fool, or admitting defeat. Some believe that asking questions will simply waste precious time. It is easy to understand why these beliefs exist. For years, command-and-control leadership dictated that a subordinate should be told, not asked. It was okay, even encouraged to be “the boss everyone loves to hate!” In recent years, though, command-and-control leadership has lost favor–primarily because it doesn’t work. People don’t do their best, most inspired work under the strict control of dictators. They do it when they feel ownership of their process and results. Rethinking leadership is about embracing a new philosophy of leadership, “Just Ask leadership.”
Let’s be clear about what Just Ask leadership does and doesn’t do. Asking does not mean changing your position. Your opinion is yours, and no one can make you change it. When you ask a question and seek to understand another’s viewpoint, however, you may not only learn something new, you may avoid unnecessary conflict. You may also find surprising areas of agreement that provide the groundwork for compromise.
Open-mindedness is both a byproduct and requirement of Just Ask leadership. Just Ask leaders ask open-ended questions, and these questions are accompanied by active listening and a period suspended judgment. Just Ask leaders may feel like they know the answer to a question, but they open themselves up to “not knowing.” They may or may not be persuaded by a coworker’s argument, but either way that coworker knows his or her input has been genuinely considered.
The principles behind Just Ask (or “Ask, Don’t Tell”) will not only enhance your leadership, but transform your life and your relationships. You will lead others (and yourself) with curiosity, trust, and respect. Asking doesn’t come easily; it takes practice. When faced with discomfort or a deadline, it is natural to argue or tell, rather than ask. I frequently have to remind myself that by defending my position, I learn nothing. By asking, a potential exists that I will discover new ideas. These ideas may then result in a better outcome and, at the very least, more trusting and trustworthy coworkers.
If you want to find your Just Ask Number, take a Just Ask Leadership Assessment today.