I was recently listening to a leadership podcast. The topic of the podcast was questions that good leaders ask. Questions are very valuable and good leaders learn from reading and asking questions.
Early in the podcast there was a statement made that “the questions we ask communicate our values and what is important to us.” This is true at work and at home. As the leader of a business, group, team, family, etc., you can talk all day long about the things that are important to you and your organization. However, if the questions you ask are not consistent with your talk, then what you care about is not being conveyed. Get it?
Let’s say for example that you are leading a business, or a team of individuals. Through your process as a leader you constitute what is important to the business and the team. Some of those statements sound like this:
- We are committed to on time delivery of all of our products or services.
- We care about how our products/services change the lives of our customers.
- We strive to produce minimal errors in our production runs.
As a leader of your organization or team, let’s say you walked into the office every afternoon and asked your accounting team “How much of our receivables were collected today?” and you asked your production manager “how many widgets were made today?” Over a short period of time every afternoon your accounting team would report that daily cash collection and the production team would report the number of widgets produced each day. Your team would quickly learn that your focus was not on time delivery, minimal errors, or how your product changed the lives of your customers, but rather how much cash was collected and how many widgets were produced.
To put this example in personal terms, let’s say that my wife calls me this afternoon and says “Honey, I just got in an accident.” Now my reaction is going to tell her exactly what I care about. The correct answer, if you were wondering, is “are you and the kids ok?” The incorrect answer is…..”how bad is the damage to the car?” You can see in this short little example that the question I ask tells the listener exactly what I care about. The same holds true in business. You will ask questions about the things you care about.
To put all of this in context, cash collections are important, the number of widgets you produce is important, and any damage to the car is important too. However, if your declarations are that on time delivery, impact on customers’ lives, and minimal errors are important, make sure you are asking questions consistent with those declarations.
Listen to the questions you ask and become intentional to create questions to support your values. By doing so you can draw people’s attention and even direct their behavior to be consistent with your declarations.