The people who you lead are so immensely valuable that they deserve to be invested in, empowered, and encouraged to fulfill their own potential. Building up and growing people is how the best organizations continue to thrive and survive.
And this requires a selfless outlook on leadership.
This focus on others is often skipped over by people in positions of leadership as this would mean focusing the spotlight on others instead of themselves, their agenda, or their own platform.
A Key to Success
There are probably a thousand articles that could be written on how to increase one’s personal leadership effectiveness, but rather than providing many examples, I want to focus on one particular aspect of increasing influence with the people you lead: Asking great questions!
You may think this is arbitrary or a non-important topic, but the truth is that as leaders we are often terrible at really coaching those around them. I know I’m often guilty of not spending the time to really build into those I lead, but alas, one cannot do much about the past, instead we should make a mutual choice to better invest into people around us now.
“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” ~ John Maxwell
This is one of my favorite John Maxwell quotes as it shows the responsibility of the leader to take ownership over people development to point them in the direction of development and empowerment.
So, let’s move into the real grit of why questions are important and how questions should be incorporated into our leadership.
Creating Opportunities for Growth
Have you ever had a great coffee with someone or a deep and meaningful conversation over dinner with a mentor or a great friend? Personally, I can remember some really challenging conversations over coffee that have changed my life and shown me a better direction to send my life.
On the other side of that, I can’t remember about a thousand coffee meetings and dinner’s which I’m sure were great, but never really had a huge impact on me.
Of course it’s idealistic to expect to change every persons life that you have coffee with, but as leaders shouldn’t we invest all we can into new leaders and people that we influence?
A Conversation Journey
There is a great theory behind different types of leadership and coaching questions which are worth a good read to understand how to move conversations along a healthy journey, but what does a journey of a great conversation look like?
Firstly you want to start off with a great platform as a leader. This looks like incorporating lots of leadership qualities into your everyday life to ensure that the people you influence can trust you and admire you for these leadership traits.
The bigger and stronger platform you speak from, the greater influence you have and the bigger voice you can use.
The atmosphere you want to start with is one of competence and openness, competence that you are equipped to lead the conversation a certain way and openness that it’s relaxed in the best environment.
This will depend on what kind of conversation will take place, for instance if it’s more a counseling situation then somewhere quiet and safe or if you just want to encourage someone then your local coffee bar is sufficient.
Creating Powerful Questions
What should your Questions look like?
Your questions need to guide and move the conversation through this journey of development and encouragement. You should be on top of and almost controlling what is being said so that you can show your team member how to move through their own thoughts.
I also can’t stress enough the need to keep the conversation flowing. No one likes awkward silence (unless it’s intentional to get the team member to think about a point that’s been made.)
In preparing for creating powerful questions, you must know what the end-goal is and what the necessary steps are to get to that point. Make sure you are using open language and persuasive questions that will help to move the person into new thinking about their given problems or queries.
Opening Up New Possibilities
Once you’ve opened up their mind to a new ending or direction to move in, use Socratic questions to really push through the boundaries and limitations they’ve put up around their thinking. Throughout this process you don’t want to keep pushing them into something they don’t want but rather open up new possibilities and options.
This is always going to be a process and a lot of work for you as the leader, but it’s immensely worth it.
Often people will put heavy limitations on their own destiny and ability but drawing out the gold from people through great conversations and questions will give you a greater depth of team and stronger, more mature leaders to nurture.
Questions will rule the direction that your leadership destiny faces. Use them to bring people on your journey and value them enough to use your time to build into their lives.
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