- What does our gut tell us about this project?
- What would we do differently if we bet our own money on this?
- What are we not seeing that is new or different?
- Which bad decisions have we made that need to be reverted?
These types of questions challenge conventional thinking. Asking them shows that you are a leader who explores better ways of doing things, who acknowledges that you don’t personally have all the answers and who encourages others to share their views and ideas.
In her book, "Multipliers", Liz Wiseman writes that good leaders "ask the really hard questions that challenge people not only to think but to rethink. They ask questions so immense that people can’t answer them based on their current knowledge or where they currently stand." To ask a question that challenge people’s thinking, it is not always enough to ask a question that begins with who, what, how, when, and where. You also need to also ask “what if” questions as they tend to free our minds to focus on possibilities. Examples could be:
- What if we could solve the problem better than anyone else?
- What if we had no constraints?
- What if we only had half the time?
- What if we could start all over?
- What if we couldn't fail?
When you ask these great questions you will challenge your team to think beyond the status quo and into innovation and creative thinking. At first, you will have to show the way and share some of your own thoughts. But later, when the team becomes more familiar with generating and implementing ideas, you can start to take a step back and give space for others to lead and take responsibility.
As you evaluate new ideas be careful not to come across as negative or constrained. When we challenge others to think critically it’s easy to slip into a mode where we are too analytical and make people feel that their ideas aren’t good enough. What’s important is that you create a safe and inspiring environment and that people feel excited and motivated by the opportunity to make a difference. Your role is not to overrule anyone, but to listen, inspire and encourage people to share and think their best thoughts. Don’t give up if people are initially hesitating and not contributing. Be persistent and reward those who come forward and embrace a new and different way of thinking.
Imagine the impact you could have, if you started to ask those all-important questions.
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