THE MOST IMPORTANT leaders are not the ones that dictate performance initiatives. They’re the ones who ask great questions. Kevin Connelly, the CEO of global executive firm Spencer Stuart stated,
Change has recreated a workplace that requires leaders who lead by asking great questions and listening. These are the most difficult executives to find.[su_spacer]
To prove the premise, think of the most irritating and ineffectual sales call you recently experienced. Likely it was one in which someone told you that you needed to buy something you didn’t want or didn’t need. They never explored your needs and expectations. They went on and on about their interests. These one-sided conversations do nothing that supports a connection.
But, this type of transaction happens every single day in dictate-driven workplaces with equally ineffective results in terms of engagement.
Not long after 9/11, we developed our first leadership program for Disney Consumer Products. The tragedy that had just befallen our country brought an array of new challenges to Disney’s leaders. At the time, many leadership programs featured a consultant pontificating about leadership traits. Participants were usually given learning experiences based on fictional business scenarios. The formula only exemplified how routinely emotions were divorced from the role of leadership.
By 2001, it was becoming clear that having an executive go into a team and order them to work harder, to give more and to act as if they were enjoying it was worthless. Workers had learned to act as if they were present while being thoroughly disengaged.
The need for inquisitive, humble, focused and highly engaged leaders was clear. In preparing for our programs, we learned as much as possible about every participating executive. We delved into their significant business relationships and from this information created customized interviews for each leader. At the time, most leadership programs sent out expensive consultants to conduct interviews for the executive. But, this time, we sent each leader out to ask the questions and quietly listened to each answer. They got unvarnished feedback about their leadership styles and what they did that inspired or de-motivated their stakeholders. They learned a great deal about employee’s hopes, dreams and aspirations. They were able to define truth on a whole new level. They connected and became more enlightened.
I have had many new clients go sheet white when I propose having the executive conduct their own 360s.
[bctt tweet=”“Why would you want a leader who isn’t strong enough to ask questions and listen to the truth?”” via=”no”]
Here is why skilled inquiry is so necessary:
Human beings are hardwired to think about something other than themselves only for a maximum of fifteen seconds. Ordering someone to connect doesn’t work. Real connections emerge when we help stakeholders satisfy their needs and expectations. On the surface, many managers believe they don’t have time. But, the alternative consumes far more time.
As change continues to accelerate around us, the need for question-driven leadership only grows. Because, without the people on the front lines telling you the truth,
You are flying blind.