If you are thinking about something, you will make better progress toward your conclusions by asking questions of yourself rather than telling yourself what to do.
The same is true of other people. It is questions that engage people and compel their attention. Questions provoke movement. Statements recycle thinking to a status quo.
Not just any question will do.
The more education you have been subjected to, the more likely you will provide an answer rather than ask a question. “Education” is about accumulated answers, about “knowledge.” It is not about figuring out what questions ought to be asked to get richer and more pertinent answers.
What people happen to know is only obliquely related to any present circumstance. Having an answer for everything is a form of egoism.
It may make you appear to be smart. But it will ultimately prove you dumb.
Questions provoke growth. And growth = life. If you want more life in your life, or in the life of your organization, be the leader who asks the questions that provoke growth – first in yourself, and then in others.
There are a few people who are always in the “learning mode.” They are curious about anything that might bear upon what is going on at the moment, or upon their longer-range goals.
Most people – certainly most “educated” people – are more likely to be toward the other end of the continuum, to be in the “knowing mode.”
They assume that they are getting paid to provide answers. Life is not about the answers. It is about asking the questions that need asking.
Questions provoke life. The best questions provoke the best lives.
The lesson: Learn how to ask just the right next question – first of yourself, then of others. It takes more practice than becoming a concert pianist. It is that much more difficult to learn. It is also that much more rewarding.
Asking great questions does not label you as naïve. In an organization that has a great and worthy purpose in life, it signals your deep and abiding passion to learn and to grow.
The most successful executives ask about four questions to every statement they make. Mediocre or failing executives toss out about four statements to every question they ask.
Which makes the better leader?
What better model could you provide your organization than that of a person committed to learning and growth?
You don’t have to be perfect. You only have to be the best and the most incorrigible learner in the organization.
So what is the best question you could ask of yourself at this point?
– Lee Thayer