The Danger of Assumptions
Your communication skills affect every aspect of your life. The success of your job, marriage and personal relationships depends on your ability to communicate. Without strong communication skills, leadership is not possible. People will not follow you if they don’t know what you want or where you're going.
Yet, we often take communication for granted. We assume we are communicating well when it may not be true. We say what we think is important and assume the message is understood.
The Floral Clock Fiasco
Many years ago, my extended family gathered in the Toronto area to enjoy quality time together. It was summer with many fun things to do. On a particularly beautiful sunny day, the men decided to go golfing, the women went shopping, and our children who were by that time young adults went to Niagara Falls. The adult children took an early morning bus ride to the world-famous waterfalls and I agreed to pick them up later in the afternoon.
In our previous blog last week, we reviewed the first four benefits outlined in Maxwell's book, "Good Leaders Ask Great Questions":
1. You only get answers to the questions you ask.
2. Questions unlock and open doors that otherwise remain closed.
3. Questions are the most effective means of connecting with people.
4. Questions cultivate humility.
This blog explores more reasons to embrace questions as part of strong leadership.
5. Questions help you engage others in conversation.
The best way to get people talking is to ask them great questions. There are so many great, outside-of-the-box questions you could ask.
Here is one example: "If you had 30 minutes to spend with any person alive today, who would that be, and why?"
You could also organize a dinner with a group of like-minded people in your industry and keep the conversation moving by asking great questions. Everyone at the table could learn and grow while also enjoying time together.
6. Questions allow us...
Are you a person who asks a lot of questions? If not, have you ever asked yourself why?
Our ability to ask questions has a huge impact on our lives and our interactions with others. It's the key to understanding. Yet, we may not know which questions to ask.
Thomas J. Watson Sr. said, "The ability to ask the right question is more than half the battle of finding the answer." Begin by clarifying what you're trying to find out.
Are you looking for facts? Do you need an expert opinion? Are you asking others to share their experience or skills? Once you begin to explore, dig deeper.
"Why" questions are particularly productive for learning more.
In his book "Good Leaders Ask Great Questions", John Maxwell promotes the value of asking questions as a leadership lifestyle. Here are just a few of the reasons that questions are so powerful:
1. You only get answers to the questions you ask.
At one time or another most of us have said, "I have a question for you and I know it may sound dumb." We...
There are many kinds of thinking–big-picture thinking, focused thinking, strategic thinking, bottom-line thinking to name a few. My favourite is creative thinking because the outcome is always fresh and surprising.
You know you're in the process of creative thinking when you find yourself scrambling around in unfamiliar territory looking for the best way forward. All that uncertainty can feel uncomfortable, I know. Creative thinking reaches beyond standard answers.
Not long ago, I was challenged to come up with an innovative way of celebrating the training completed by a board of directors. My client saw what had been accomplished and wanted to encourage more, but they wanted to do it in an exciting way. They didn't want rolled parchment tied with a golden bow or gift certificates.
According to Steve Jobs, "Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because...
I know a woman who's been struggling for years to launch a satisfying career. Like many people in their twenties and thirties, she's looking for her first big break. While she waits for that opportunity, she's been taking short-term contracts to keep her foot in the door. Most of these opportunities are due to permanent staff members taking a leave of absence. Once they return, the opportunity is no longer open.
There's no question that it's challenging to launch a career in today's competitive job market. But it's about more than the number of jobs ads a person sees, the interviews they attend, or even the short-term contracts they complete. Finding the right fit is not only about outside influences. Finding the right fit is about knowing yourself.
The woman I've been telling you about has a degree in a specific area. She completed that degree with the intention of getting a specific job. All of this is good, but it can be limiting. Until we spoke, she...
There was once a female entrepreneur named Jill. With her exceptional technical savvy, she created innovative designs and started a company to commercialize products based on her designs. There was strong demand for the products and she was fortunate to surround herself with a skilled leadership team.
It looked like they were bound to succeed. In terms of technology and business know-how, they were top of the class. Unfortunately, in other areas the leadership team had not yet reached full development. A culture of complaining and vying for position began to take over the organization. Soon productivity plummeted, and they were no longer meeting the marketing potential for their products.
This is a story that is all too common, but the ending may surprise you. Knowing that her company was in jeopardy, Jill sought coaching from a mentor she respected and she worked hard at changing her own behaviour. Yes, you read correctly. Her first thought was not...
Traditionally, leaders expected their followers to come to them. The reporting structure flowed in one direction and that was upwards. But as John C. Maxwell explains in his chapter on the Law of Connection in "The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership", good leaders know better. They reach out to connect with the people in their organization at an authentic and emotional level.
The direction of connection is not upwards or even downwards. It is circular, a matter of give and take, and the circle starts with the genuine concern of the leader. When people feel their leaders care, they give more to the organization and everyone prospers.
Brene Brown put it well when she said, "I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship."
We rely on technical skills and intellectual know-how. These things are...
I heard a story some time ago about a man who came up to a border crossing riding a motorcycle. Balanced on the back of his bike, were two saddlebags.
He had all the documents required to cross the border. The border guards asked the obvious question, “What’s in the saddlebags?” The man replied, “Rocks.”
To check his story, the guards emptied the saddlebags. Sure enough, all they found were rocks. So, they allowed the man to enter the country.
The following week, the same man approached the border crossing, riding a motorcycle. Again, the guards checked his saddlebags and found only rocks. Again, he was allowed to cross the border.
The scene repeated itself over the next several months until the border guards couldn’t stand it any longer. “We know you're smuggling something across the border,” they said. “But every time we check your saddlebags, we find only rocks. Please tell us what you're up to. We...
We recently helped a woman discover and grow her leadership potential. By all measures, she was already quite a success. She'd obtained a masters and proven her technical skills in a highly competitive industry. With her genuinely supportive personality, people appreciated having her on their team. Anyone would have thought her pathway to reaching her potential as a leader was already set. Yet, there was an important opportunity she'd been missing.
We always like to say, you can't give what you don't know you have. That's why our first step was to explore her leadership potential. She used the online tool we provide on our website to do a Personality Assessment Profile. Armed with a deeper understanding of her leadership style, she was ready to look for new ways of reaching her leadership potential.
She began by considering her inner circle. We all have one. They are the people we trust the most, the people we look towards when we need advice, and the people who are first to give us...
James is at the dinner table with his wife, Cheryl. She can see he's distressed and asks if he's okay. The answer is larger than she expected. As far as she knew, James was happy in his job.
“Cheryl, I don’t know what’s wrong. I’ve worked long and hard for the company. I’ve been loyal and I've given my all. In the past, I was rewarded for my performance, but they’ve passed me over for a promotion again. Guess I better find another company that appreciates my experience and effort.’”
Only three years ago, James was excited about his future. He'd been promoted to a manager position at the manufacturing company where he works. They'd valued his university degree, but they'd valued his 10 years of experience even more.
James was ready for the learning curve his new role demanded. Never afraid of work, he committed countless hours to management courses and self-study. After all, he'd never held a leadership position before. He knew he had...