To lead is to empower others. How a good question can empower the team members in organization? How a question affects leadership? Here are Question and Answers about “Leading with Questions”. Marc Irawan as the consultant from PQM Consultants interviewed the guest speaker, Professor Michael J. Marquardt from George Washington University. View the full video here
Describe the importance of asking a question and why is it important nowadays ?
The most important skill on life for any individual, particularly for leader is the ability to ask a great question. The better their question, the more they can lead their organization to be successful. Particularly in today’s environment, the changing is so rapid, competition is growing, and customers are expecting more. I think every organization and enterprise must create culture that ask question. Because the better the question they asked, the more innovative they would be, the more they become learning organization and successful. The better question, the more successful and happy.
This is very new to a lot of companies. How do we best making this in our organization?
Many Asian culture and US culture, have culture that tends to discourage question inside of the organization. Leaders are expected to have answers. If you ask question you are considered to be unhappy employee. And if the leader ask question, that is a demonstration of not a good leader. In the last 10 years we realized that we have to change that culture. We have to encourage question. And I think one of the most important thing leader can do is to encourage question and ask the question. I am going to ask you more question. The only way we can see many changes. Leader has to demonstrate the power of question and encourage people to ask question.
Most people they are afraid to ask question unless that leader says we need to ask each other question. You can ask question and you can have a better leader. We together can make our organization become successful. It can be started from any individual. My organization, my department even my division. We can ask about it is okay to have question. It can start from anyone. But a leader does it, encourage it.
How long do you think that it would be a habit?
In some organization it might be already too late for them to be a questioning culture. Because the environment has changed. Organization, they do not have any choice. If they want to be innovative, they have to ask question. Sometimes the environment is forcing leader who does not ask question to begin asking question. Because question is the only way to understand their environment, and to develop more innovative product and service. So, it depends on number of element of cause in organization of how quickly the organization change. I think if the environment really forces the organization to be more innovative to be more cost effective that going to force the organization to become learning leading questioning organization more quickly.
Leader has to recognized that the environment inquire question. My sense is that most of us we are born as natural questioner. When we leave the organization and go outside door we meet with our friends we ask questions. So we enjoy questions, we know that questions develop relationship. But when we go inside the door of organization we stop asking question. If the internal environment of leader encourage question and the external environment as you got to ask question or you do not succeed it can help you quiet quickly. Within few weeks or month they change their culture, they begin rewarding people who ask question. They begin recognizing for encouraging question. So the quickest way to change the culture is that the reward system has to encourage question.
So, what is your advice to those companies that you think are little too late to have such habits?
I think if they start reading the environment and realizing that we have to become a questioning environment as soon as they can. We have to be a learning organization. We have to be creative. We have to make a better products. Shorter time, more tailored. I believe that question is so powerful and once their spirit begin. I think people like to ask question. All we need is to encourage it. Leading smartly and respect to encourage question. Recognition and rewarding of question. You are good questioner, you have to be more creative and we will reward you for that because your question is valuable for our organization. Nothing more valuable than a great question.
How do we change the habit of asking disempowering question?
I think the we need to change the habit of asking many disempowering question,that make others feel guilty. Most of us do not realize that we ask disempowering question. Because those of the questions we heard from our parent, those of the questions we heard from our teacher. Why do not you do this, why are you so bad, and so on. We are not aware that those are the questions we ask and the impact of our question. So I think the first step that I am aware the fact that when I ask a question to someone that disempowering, that cause fear or rejection, lack of confidence. All I have to do is fairly simple process to turn this disempowering negative question into positive. Instead of asking why are you so bad, or why can’t you doing right we ask what you can do better. What are some ways in which together we can achieve it? So, it is a mindset but it is a fairly simple process. Just remember that, instead of asking question that put people down, I am going to ask people question that positive, empowering and lift them up.
Sometimes I find that people do not even realize that their questions are disempowering. How do you make people realize that happened?
As I mention in the workshop today, if you are going to change your leadership and going to be more powerful and beneficial leader to your organization you have to ask better question. First step for any change is to find out the question you are asking. Look at your own question, reflect data, you may ask the people around you, so you became aware the fact. And then you deliberately and consciously say okay normally I will ask this question in this situation. I am going to ask it into more positive and empowering way to get the positive the growth rather than condemn the negative.
You mention that questions are more powerful than statements. Are they techniques that we all can learn to change the way we make statement instead of question?
I think all corporate culture, all national culture tend to encourage statement. People have been promoted in life because they make better statement, they have the answer. We are encouraged to make statement, when we do asking question it is kind of judging, condemning, that demonstrate our superiority. As Peter Drucker said, the past great management theorist, the past leader lead by statement, by the knowledge and power they had. That was leader the past. The leader of the 21stcentury will be the leader that can ask question. That kind of habit does not work anymore. In 21stcentury all of the successful leaders are those who lead by question not statement.
Last question, what do you think is the most memorable question. By whom and why in your life?
One simple question is why do not I write a book. That question eventually lead me to write 25 books. I move to area of leadership development to influence many people. By that question finally I am working in area of action learning.