The Benefits of Leaders Asking Powerful Questions

questions

 

This is a guest post by Fred Halstead, founder and principal of Halstead Executive Coaching and author of Leadership Skills That Inspire Incredible Results*.

 

The Leadership Skill of Asking Questions

Powerful questions will help you learn both about the person you’re speaking with and the subject you’re discussing. You can find out how the person thinks and what is important to them, based upon what they say and don’t say. The more you continue to ask powerful questions, the more you will accomplish both. This confirms George Bernard Shaw’s point: “The problem with communication is the illusion that it has been accomplished.” So often we fall into a trap in which we believe we understand each other and grasp the concepts being explained, only to later find that it was almost as if we were speaking a different language to one another. Continual probing and on-target questions will help both you and the other person arrive at the best solution and learn more about each other and yourselves.

 

“The problem with communication is the illusion that it has been accomplished.” -George Bernard Shaw

 

It seems obvious since we spent two chapters discussing the importance of listening, but when a question is asked, allow the other person the time to respond. You want to be sure that thought processing and critical thinking are at play. I had one client who felt that the reason the respondent didn’t answer immediately was that he or she didn’t have an answer. If you want a quick answer, there is a really low probability that you will gain a truly thoughtful answer. If your expectation from a thought-provoking question is a quick answer, you risk the other person being frustrated in a nonproductive way, with you and with themselves.

Powerful questions also satiate your sense of curiosity. When you are curious, you want to learn more and you will more naturally ask questions in ways that will maximize the other person’s thinking. When the right question does not come to mind or the person was not clear in what he or she said or was trying to say, you can always respond: “Tell me more about that.” This simple phrase will expand the other person’s thinking as they further verbalize their thoughts and your understanding of what they are saying. When one is not naturally curious, the desire to respect the other person by exploring their thinking provides a solid motivation to ask questions that bring out the person’s best thinking. Instead of saying, “Stay thirsty, my friend,” as Jonathan Goldsmith did in the Dos Equis ads, say to yourself, “Stay curious, my friend.” Lack of curiosity can be the foe of getting to the best result.

 

“Lack of curiosity can be the foe of getting to the best result.” -Fred Halstead

 

Powerful questions are perfect for discussing sensitive matters. Asking difficult, tough, or edgy questions can be hard for even the most veteran leaders, but those who want their colleagues and team members to succeed will of course need to ask some from time to time. As a coach, I ask those questions fairly often to bring out my client’s very best thinking. When the person is asked a tough question that reflects on them personally, you will find it interesting, maybe surprising, and rewarding to first ask for their permission to ask a difficult question.

The typical question is simply something like: “May I ask you a tough question about all of this?” (This is one example of when a yes/no question is wise.)leadership skills book cover

Tough or difficult questions are direct and go to the heart of personal accountability and, at the same time can inspire a higher level of performance. Examples of such questions include: “In retrospect, what could you have done differently to create the outcome we wanted?” or “What was an even better way for you to handle that?” These questions will help them reflect on their decisions and actions, and also on what they can do in the future to improve. A question such as, “What do you need to do to greatly improve this situation?” or “What specifically will you commit to do differently when this or a similar situation arises?” may feel too pointed at first, but it will lead to them being more reflective and thoughtful, help them avoid the same actions in the future, and to grow as a leader. These kinds of pointed questions also demonstrate that you care about them as a person and you care about their success—and they reflect clearly on who is responsible. They have no sense of “gotcha,” which tends to make it about you more than their responsibility.

 

“When you are curious, you want to learn more and you will more naturally ask questions in ways that will maximize the other person’s thinking.” -Fred Halstead

 

Ask Questions that Touch the Core

Communication Tips from Don Hutson

Communication Tips

Public speaking is not only a common fear, but it is also one of the most important skills if you want to see rapid promotions at work. I previously shared 7 Reasons Why You Should Improve Your Public Speaking. It is an incredibly important skill.

Don Hutson is a world class public speaker and past President of the National Speakers Association. His decades of experience made him the perfect person to sit down and discuss the art of public speaking.

Don has also authored or co-authored fourteen books. Two of them The One Minute Entrepreneur and The One Minute Negotiator have been Wall Street Journal and New York Times bestsellers.

 

“The number 1 antidote to fear is preparation.” -Don Hutson

 

In this video interview, I talk to Don about:

  • The importance of preparation.
  • How to overcome your fear of public speaking.
  • Techniques to handle hecklers.
  • 3 Tips to improve your speaking skills.

 

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1 Japanese Business Skill We Should All Master

Japan

1 Skill to Master

Because I do business all over the world, I have the opportunity to travel and learn unique skills. Unless you want to see quick disaster, it’s important to prepare carefully when meeting with counterparts from other cultures.

Recently, I had the opportunity to visit Japan. My experience with Japanese business leaders has always been positive. I appreciate the unique culture. On this trip, I was once again struck by the Japanese hospitality, by their respect, deference, and kindness.

If you’ve ever studied Japanese business etiquette, you may know that the norms are very different from Western standards.

  • Rank and title are more meaningful than in the United States.
  • Polite conversation normally requires frequent expressions of gratitude.
  • Slightly bowing shows respect.
  • Where to sit at a negotiation table, or at dinner, is carefully orchestrated by rank and standing.
  • Business cards are exchanged with intention. Hold the business card with both hands and show respect to the person with a slight bow to it. Never put the card in your back pocket or casually put it away. Instead, place it close to your heart in a card case.
  • The group is more important than the individual.
  • Slurping soup is proper etiquette and shows your appreciation.
  • Giving gifts is very important and is a ritualistic exchange.
  • Toasting is important at dinner.
  • Nodding is customary to show attention and comprehension.
  • Nine is an unlucky number in Japan, making the subtitle of my new book problematic. Too late!

The list goes on and on.

japanese pond

 

“Nothing strengthens authority so much as silence.” –Leonardo da Vinci

 

The Skill of Silence

There’s one particular skill, or habit, that I particularly noted. Japanese are much more comfortable with silence than in many other parts of the world.

Asking for Help is a Sign of Strength

Leadership Skill: Asking for Help

I don’t even recall how the argument started.

Somehow a simple text message morphed from a few sentences to an arrow that found its mark, spearing into an area that was still inflamed from other hits.

You know how that happens. A few words conjure up deeply-held emotions, past hurts, yet unspoken pain.

We worked it out, my friend and I, and our friendship survived and deepened because of it.

At the end of one difficult conversation, he said something that stuck with me: “Skip, you may think you’re fully transparent, and I guess in some ways you are. But,” his voice trailed off.

I waited, wondering what the next words would be.

“But, you’re not really good at asking for help.”

For many years, I’ve told the people who work for me that asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

There is truth to Richard Bach’s quote, “We teach best what we most need to learn.”

 

“We teach best what we most need to learn.” -Richard Bach

 

My Request for Help

Keep reading to see my personal request for help. I can’t tell you how appreciative I am for the assistance.

 

Learn to Ask for Help

I prefer to give—to be someone who serves. When I was a teenager, I worked in a restaurant and just felt better when I was the one pouring a drink rather than sitting there getting served. It just makes me comfortable. I’d rather host a party than attend one.

Pride can stop us from asking others. But so can humility. Pride says, “I have no need of anyone because I can do anything.” Humility says, “My needs are not worthy enough to bother anyone.”

So you can’t judge the “why” behind someone not asking.

Learning to ask for help just seems harder for some people than for others. When others ask in a polite manner for something, I’m in awe. It impresses me. I guess because it’s hard for me to do. And it’s a crucially important leadership skill.

Keep reading to the bottom and see what I’m asking.

 

Asking for help:

Shows vulnerability.

Brene Brown teaches the power of vulnerability. She says that, “Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.”

 

Increases our connectedness.

Nadeem Aslam writes, “Pull a thread here and you’ll find it’s attached to the rest of the world.” As I ask you to help me, I’m increasing that attachment to you and to others.

Use the 3 Elements of a Good Story to Lead With Power

The Power of Story

When I was growing up, I spent many weekends camping with my Boy Scout Troop in pursuit of my Eagle Scout badge. One thing I remember about those trips was the campfires and the stories we told. From the scary to the hilarious, those stories created an environment as we entertained each other. No devices, no distractions, just stories.

We may live in a different time, but the power of story remains an important part of memory, of persuasion, and of leadership.

A few months ago, we spotlighted Procter & Gamble executive Paul Smith, who is now a speaker and trainer on storytelling techniques. His latest book, Sell with a Story: How to Capture Attention, Build Trust, and Close the Sale is a powerful reminder of the power of story.

After our written interview, I met with him in person to continue our conversation.

 

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” –Maya Angelou

 

We discuss the 3 elements of a great story: