As a young leader in the Army, I used to ask my soldiers: ‘How are you doing?’
Guess what the answers were. Fine. Good. Okay.
What did I gain from those conversations? Nothing useful.
A mentor suggested that I start asking:
- What are you doing?
- Do you understand why you are doing this?
- When did you eat last?
- What do you need to help you do your job?
I started getting information that was much more valuable in helping to understand what was going on.
Great questions can reveal tremendous information.
The questions you ask as a leader can reveal the values you hold, your priorities, and reinforce behaviours which you may or may not like.
But too often, leaders reveal the gaps that exist between what they say and what they want and do.
Here are four questions leaders should be asking themselves.
- What would a great leader do at this moment?
Imagine framing your perspective with the lens of what great leaders would do in the situation in which you find yourself.
The standard is raised immediately for the options available, the best actions to pursue, and the right words to use.
Great leaders ask this question to push themselves beyond their limitations, biases and planning assumptions.
- What did I do today to enable my team to be better, or did I do something that held my team back?
Leaders touch everyone with their actions and in their conversations. Often, there are unintended consequences from what they do and say.
Great leaders constantly review, assess and learn from what they do and say making adjustments along the way, revealing their value of continual learning.
- If I could do one thing in the next 10 minutes, what would be the best thing to do?
Time management is critical as a leader.
When a meeting ends early, great leaders seize upon the found sliver of time to invest in getting things done, which usually involves building a relationship with an employee.
Your behaviour during these slivers of found time reveals your priorities.
- Who’s hiding from me? Who haven’t I met with recently?
While it’s easy to rationalize that an employee is working well on their own, is independent and self-motivated, great leaders know that relationships with all employees need tending.
Sustaining and growing inter-personal relationships with employees earn the leader the right to lead.
Growing your leadership impact requires you to reach beyond the limits of your personality and style. And it’s in those moments of stretch that you begin to build your leadership muscles.
- Think back over the last several conversations you’ve had with employees and consider what values do you think you revealed?
- In each meeting you have over the next 48 hours, write/type ‘What Would a Great Leader Do’ at the top of your notes. Then grab a coffee and reflect on the experiment.