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

Why Leaders Must Develop An Outward Mindset

Develop the Outward Mindset

Your mindset is the key to your success, your happiness, and your ability to perform at exceptional levels. Your mindset is how you look at yourself and the world around you. An internal mindset is one blind to others, what they need, and how to create collective results.

Jim Ferrell, co-founder and Managing Partner of The Arbinger Institute is the author/co-author of multiple bestselling books, including Leadership and Self-Deception and The Anatomy of Peace. His latest book, co-authored with Mitchell Warner, is The Outward Mindset.

 

It’s as eye opening and important as his earlier work.

I recently spoke with Jim about his research on perspective and personal effectiveness. The ideas in this new book can improve performance, spark collaboration, and accelerate innovation.

 

“The secret to teamwork is an outward mindset.” –Steve Young

 

How to Change Lives and Transform Organizations

Would you introduce the concept of “The Outward Mindset”?

With an outward mindset, we see others as people like ourselves, whose goals, objectives, needs, and challenges matter to us. With an inward mindset, on the other hand, we see others as objects whose primary value to us depends on the extent to which we think they can help us with our own goals and objectives.

Our new book, The Outward Mindset, is about the key differences between these two mindsets and how to move to an outward mindset. The real-life stories in the book illustrate the dramatic difference in influence and results that individuals, teams, and organizations see as they shift to more of an outward-mindset orientation. The book details both how to personally make this shift and how to help others—individuals and whole organizations—to make it.

 

“Too many leaders assume that the role of leadership is to control.” –Jim Ferrell

 

Shift to the Outward Mindset

You share some powerful stories of shifting to an outward mindset. Are there “typical” difficulties and struggles in making this shift, especially if you found someone who was way off the scale on the inward side?

The biggest challenge is people linking their own mindset change to a change in others. When people have an inward mindset, they characteristically blame their struggles—and even their own mindsets—on others. They believe that they have to have an inward mindset in order to defend themselves against all the people around them who have an inward mindset. We demonstrate in the book how this belief is mistaken. We show that the most important move—both in organizations and in life generally— is for people to shift to an outward-mindset approach even when others around them persist in inwardness. This is a very powerful move, and the willingness to do it is one of the most important elements of transformational leadership.

As for someone being way off the scale on the inward side, most people are a mix of the two mindsets. Someone who is tyrannically inward in one part of their life, for example, may be quite different in other contexts. This means that people often are much closer to a change to an outward mindset than many people around them may believe.

 

“How much larger your life would be if your self could become smaller in it.” –GK Chesterton

 

The Incredible Results of an Outward Mindset

What results do you see after the shift has occurred?

Wow, it’s hard to know where to begin. At its most basic level, a change to an outward mindset transforms the health and vitality of relationships. It’s easy to see why this would be the case. When we are connected to others in an others-inclusive way—where we see others as people who matter like we ourselves matter—we tend to do much better with others (and they with us!) than when we are self-focused and see others as objects or tools to be used for our own purposes.

As a result of this transformational effect on relationships, one of the interesting things we often find in our work with organizations is that even the non-work relationships of the people we work with dramatically improve. I can’t tell you the number of times people have told us that our work has saved their marriages or healed the rifts in their relationships with their parents, siblings, or children.

For the same basic reason, a shift to an outward mindset in the workplace dramatically improves the abilities of teams, departments, and whole organizations to work productively together. These improvements show up in organizational climate, engagement surveys, customer satisfaction scores, and in the bottom line results of organizations.

Jim Ferrell

How does the outward mindset manifest itself in individual and team goals?

Although people generally aren’t aware of this, most organizational systems, incentives, and goals are inherently inward in nature. They invite people to focus on themselves and their own activities and levels of performance rather on the impact of their activities on others.

As a result, the move to an outward mindset often dramatically changes the objectives and metrics that people and organizations pursue and utilize. You can imagine, for example, how a person’s view of his own job responsibilities would change if he knew that he was responsible not only for certain outputs but also for the impact of those outputs (and the way he went about delivering them) on others.

When individuals and organizations get serious about moving to more of an outward-mindset approach, they start paying attention to and measuring their impact, not just their activities or outputs.

 

“All action results from thought, so it is thoughts that matter.” -Sai Baba

How to Drive Superior Results By Serving Others

A Bold Ambition to Serve

Do you love the people you’ve decided to serve?

It has been my privilege and passion to speak about servant leadership in forums all over the world. My free e-book on Leading With Others In Mind has been downloaded thousands of times around the world.

Not too long ago, I read a compelling new book on the topic, Dare to Serve: How to Drive Superior Results by Serving Others. The author is not just an author, but the CEO of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, Inc., a multibillion-dollar global chain. Prior to Popeyes, she held leadership positions at Yum! Brands, Domino’s Pizza, RJR Nabisco, the Gillette Company, and P&G.

Back to the opening question: Do you love the people you’ve decided to serve?

Cheryl asks that tough question in this book and goes on to explain why the answer is key to delivering superior results.

 

“Most of us…have jobs that are too small for our spirits.” –Studs Terkel

 

Fired! How a Humbling Event Changed Everything

Cheryl, your book, Dare to Serve: How to Drive Superior Results by Serving Others, starts out with a humble account of you getting fired. That seems to have been a turning point for you personally and professionally. How did this contribute to your beliefs?

Thankfully there have been several humbling events in my life – events that reminded me that I am not in control, I am not God. I have found the trials in my life, like facing breast cancer or getting fired from KFC, were the events that led me to new insights and personal growth. They have made me a better person and a better leader.

Losing my job made me question my leadership and business capability. This crisis of confidence led me to a ruthless review of my wiring, my strengths, my values and my experiences. In that process, I gained conviction about who I was and importantly, what kind of leader I wanted to be. When I came to the Popeyes opportunity, I was refreshed and ready to lead out of these convictions.

 

“You prove what you measure.” –Popeyes Mantra

 

Cheryl Bachelder, Used by Permission Cheryl Bachelder, Used by Permission

The Benefits of Daring to Serve

Would you share some of the benefits leaders receive if they adopt the Dare to Serve leadership model?

The benefits are many. Leading this way has been the most exciting, challenging, and rewarding experience of my career. And I think the Leadership Team at Popeyes would say the same thing.

It has been incredibly challenging to transform the culture, the business, and the leaders simultaneously. Chasing the bold goals sets the bar high – which leads us to be more innovative – which leads us go assemble amazing people – which leads us to be tenacious and determined to get to the daring destination. We are better leaders because we are stretching and learning continuously.

The decision to serve our franchise owners well has focused us on a process of building alignment – to define the problem together and to solve together – and has built strong, productive relationships with our most important partners. Sometimes this feels slow or inefficient, but once aligned, it has enabled incredible speed to market.

And finally, the rewarding experience of bringing together a capable team – then nurturing and developing their leadership qualities. This is essential to performance in a fast growing company, but it is also important, purposeful work that can leave a legacy of future leaders.

 

“Personal purpose accelerates employee engagement and organizational performance.” -@CABachelder

 

Set Off to a Daring Destination

39 Traits of a Bad Boss

The Officially Bad Boss

All of us have some negative qualities, make mistakes, and mess up. After all, “We’re only human.”

But bad managers seem to collect these traits faster than a hoarder fills a house.  If you are working for someone and find yourself nodding vigorously as you read this list, you officially have a bad boss.

What traits would you add to the list?

  1. Self-centered

Everything is about him. Not the organizational goals, but his bonus. Not about the team, but about his individual performance. “How I look” is more important than anything else.

 

“Leaders enjoy giving credit to others.” -Skip Prichard

 

  1. Steals credit

You work all night to get it done. Instead of praising you, you find your name removed and her name prominently at the top. She basks in the light of your success and barely acknowledges your contribution.

 

“Leaders create results by letting others shine.” -Skip Prichard

 

  1. Bullies

Threats and intimidation mark the way he manages. You are not asked; you are bullied.

  1. Poor self-awareness

What seems obvious to everyone else, she misses. Her effect on people is something that she completely misses. She never comes back and apologizes or corrects a misunderstanding because she is just not aware of her impact.

  1. Manages up

Sure, everyone needs to manage up. But, he does it exclusively. His boss loves him. Everyone else sees that he sucks up so much that he has little time for anything else.

  1. Always right

You are frequently wrong, but she never is. She can never admit a mistake because it would threaten her self-esteem.

 

“Freely admitting mistakes is a sign of leadership.” -Skip Prichard

 

  1. Poor communicator

Information is withheld. Few understand what he means. More time is spent trying to decode the little communication that happens than actually listening to the message.

 

“A bad boss withholds information in an effort to manipuate.” -Skip Prichard

 

  1. Unable to get the best from people

People may stay in the job, but they are not motivated. No one tries to do more than the minimum.

  1. Micromanages

She dictates every last detail. There is no room for creativity or deviation from the plan. You are to execute orders and report back. Constantly.

  1. Missing in action

He is never around when you need him to make a decision or weigh in.

  1. Never praises or encourages

If you read a positive word on your performance review, your heart would stop so long you would need a doctor. You never hear a single positive word.

 

“A bad boss wallows in the negative. A leader seeks the positive.” -Skip Prichard

 

  1. Wants only praise and good news

You have a problem, but he will not listen. You lost an account, but you cannot bring it up. Problems must be hidden. Only good news is shared because he cannot seem to handle anything more.

  1. Disingenuous

He may praise you, but he doesn’t mean it. His body language betrays his real emotion.

15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership

Conscious Leadership

Jim Dethmer, Diana Chapman and Kaley Warner Klemp have just released The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership.  It’s a practical leadership guide designed to help leaders become more conscious, take personal responsibility, and lead others in a win-win model.

If you need to pause, reflect more, and change your leadership style or behavior, this book will jumpstart your thinking.

 

Are You Above or Below the Line?

Personal responsibility and personal accountability are vitally important to success in any endeavor. You start the book with a simple but powerful model: Above the Line / Below the Line. Would you share that model with us?

The model is a simple black line.  At any moment a leader is either above the line or below the line.   When we are above the line, we are open, curious and committed to learning. When we’re below the line, we’re closed, defensive and committed to being right. What we suggest is that the first fundamental building block of conscious leadership is the ability to accurately locate yourself at any moment, asking, “Am I above or below the line?”

This sounds rather simple, but it actually requires a high degree of self-awareness.  Many leaders spend most of their time below the line.  In fact, it is the normal state.  Asking them if they’re below the line would be like asking a fish if it’s wet.  When leaders begin the journey to conscious leadership, they develop a greater and greater capacity to locate themselves accurately in any given moment.

 

“You are essentially who you create yourself to be and all that occurs in your life is the result of your own making.” -Stephen Richards

 

Many leaders spend most of their time below the line because we go there when we are threatened or when we are in a fight or flight reactivity and the goal is survival.  Our brains are hardwired to do this.  This is normal.  It is human.  The issue is that this reactive pattern occurs whether the threat is real or perceived, and when the perceived threat is to the survival of the ego, we go below the line to protect it.  Many ego-driven leaders experience a fairly constant threat to their ego.  Thus they live and lead from below the line.

When leaders are below the line, they are in a low-learning state and create cultures of fear and threat. This results in lower creativity, innovation, collaboration and connection. When they’re above the line, they are in a state of trust, and the result is a higher level of effectiveness.

So the first key of conscious leaders is to accurately locate themselves either above or below the line. If they’re below the line, the second key to conscious leadership is to shift back above the line. Leaders master reliable shift moves that take them back above the line.

 

“The key to success is to focus our conscious mind on things we desire not things we fear.” -Brian Tracy

 

The Dangers of Right

I have also written about the dangers of always being “right.” Why do so many of us have a strong desire to be right at all costs?

The reason we are so committed to being right at all costs and to proving that we are right is that the ego doesn’t believe it can survive unless it is right. Being wrong is ego death. Being right, and more importantly being seen as being right, becomes our highest goal.

What we see is that conscious leaders become more interested in learning than in proving to everyone, including themselves, that they are right. The more secure leaders are, the less they need to spend time explaining, justifying, defending and proving their rightness and the more time they spend learning through deep listening, curiosity and wonder. As leaders learn to lead more from curiosity and wonder, they discover that breakthrough ideas come their way regularly. Also, the more leaders get deeply interested in learning over being right, the more their teams and organizations do the same.

 

“Conscious leaders are more interested in learning than proving they are right.”

 

The Drama Triangle

Would you share the “victim-villain-hero” triangle?

When we’re below the line, we’re in drama.  All drama is driven by three roles: the victim, villain and hero.

VICTIM

When I’m a victim, I’m living as though I’m “the effect of” people, circumstances and conditions.  I locate the cause of my experience as something or someone outside of me. I’m upset because a supplier didn’t deliver or the markets are down or there is bad traffic. It could also be that I’m happy, but the cause of my happiness is the circumstances outside of me. Victims never take full responsibility for their lives.

VILLAIN

Villains blame. They blame others, the collective and themselves. They move through life finding fault.  Villains believe something is wrong and their goal is to figure out who caused it.