In today's fast-paced world, leaders can't possibly have all the answers. They need to use good questions to guide others to get to the "right answers". Peter Scholtes (1998) identified "seven basic all-purpose questions" leaders must ask:
- Why? When you encounter a problem, ask why. Ask why as many as five times to get to the root cause of the problem.
- What is the purpose? People love to suggest things and often grab onto new ideas to implement in their organizations without making sure there is a match between the organization's needs and their ideas. Help people clarify the purpose - or desired outcome - as they plan new projects.
- What will it take to accomplish this? While it is nice to dream, your job as a leader is to support people to implement their ideas. This question gets others to think through the methods they will use to put ideas into action.
- Who cares about this? Ask this question to make sure you are choosing actions that will matter to the right people. If the people you serve notice or care about the action, it should have higher payoff for you.
- What is your premise? Many suggestions and ideas are made without stating the assumptions or beliefs that are guiding them. When you ask people to state their premise or assumption, you help them gain greater insight.
- What data do you have or could you get? Some suggestions and ideas are based on perceptions and hunches - asking this question pushes people to "ground" their actions in real data.
- What is the source of your data? Before you base decisions on data, make sure it is valid and comes from a reliable source.
Prior to Starting
- What could realistically go wrong?
- How might that be prevented?
- What should we monitor to see if the problem is occurring?
- How can we be prepared to react if it goes wrong?
- What are you doing?
- Why are you doing it?
- How do you know this is the right thing to do?
- Are we getting what we wanted?
- Are we avoiding what we didn't want?
- Do we need to make adjustments?
- How would we do it differently next time?
From: Leading Every Day by Joyce Kaser, Susan Mundry, Katherine E. Stiles, & Susan Loucks-Horsley
Published by: Corwin Press