Written by 12:06 pm Leading Views: 114

The Most Important Question You’re Probably Not Asking

It’s almost a certainty that your team members have opinions of your decisions and leadership. However, they are unlikely to share those opinions freely unless given a window of opportunity.

Take a minute to conjure up an image in your mind of the quintessential “great leader”.

What do they look like? Sound like? How do they walk, talk, dress, act?

If you could only use a few words, how would you describe them?

Many people, when going through this mental exercise, imagine someone confident, in-command, issuing directives in an “I know precisely what I’m doing” way. Sure, they may be humble, but their humility is more of the “I’ll pretend I don’t know the answer so I can involve you, but in truth I know precisely what needs to be done here” kind.

This is the kind of leader we see portrayed in movies, on television, and in culture at large.

And, that completely fictitious “Alpha Leader” contributes to the sense of overwhelm and experience of imposter syndrome that many newly-minted leaders experience when they find themselves in a position of authority. Nothing other than their title has changed since the day before, but they now suddenly find themselves in the decision-making role.

It’s easy to critique decisions when you’re not the one making them. Many organizations are full of pundits, questioning the “coach’s” decision to switch defenses in the fourth quarter. But, when you are suddenly on the hot seat, everything changes.

One key to effective decision-making is to ensure that you haven’t grown myopic in your situational awareness. You have your own biases and pre-dispositions, often based upon what’s worked well for you in the past. However, replying on your own limited experience is a guaranteed way to (a) alienate the very talented people on your team, and (b) miss something really important.

That’s why I believe the most important question that any leader can ask of those around them is this:

“What’s something obvious that I’m missing?”

It’s almost a certainty that your team members have opinions of your decisions and leadership. However, they are unlikely to share those opinions freely unless given a window of opportunity.

Notice that the question almost implies that there is something you’re missing. You aren’t asking “Is there anything else?”, which is more rhetorical than anything.

You’re essentially saying “I know there’s something here that I’m overlooking. Can you see it?” You’re granting permission to speak up and share the thing that’s been bothering them, but that they are unlikely to mention unless you create space for them to do so.

Great leaders are humble, curious, and obsessed with getting it right (eventually). Model these qualities for your team, and open yourself to the perspective of those around you. By doing so, you greatly amplify your intelligence while simultaneously increasing your chances of getting to the right solution.

Be a curious leader.

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