Few days ago, I read Manager Today, a very influential business magazine in Taiwan. One of its articles said: to be a successful leader, you need to know how to ask questions. This article was insightful and highlighted a skill that is vital to success.
My experience in leadership coincides very well with what the article says.
French philosopher Voltaire has said: “the questions a person asks tells more about him than the answers he give.” The core of this message is that we can understand a person’s thought process and ability to handle situations by looking at how they ask questions. It also gives a peek into how they will handle situations in the future.
As a leader, I encourage workers to think critically, just as I love asking questions. Only by asking, can we discover details that we might have overlooked or angles that we have never considered. The right questions often are able to change a situation in a very impactful way.
The article gave a very good example, which I thought was intriguing:
Ex CEO of General Electric (GE), Jack Welch, mentioned in his biography that in his early days, he sought advice from management guru Peter Drucker. The question was: “GE has too many subsidiary companies, making it difficult to manage. What solution do you recommend?”
Drucker responded with two questions:
First: if what you have now are not these companies, but a huge sum of money—which subsidiary companies would you want to acquire? Why?
Secondly: think about those companies that you do not want to invest in—what should you do with them?
These two seemingly simple questions bothered Welch for a while. He held meetings with his managers, and all his plans for the company became much clearer because of the two questions.
Welch said that this was the single most valuable consultation he has ever had in his entire career.
After reading about this, I realise that people like Drucker do not need to promote themselves at all—his influence is so great that no one can possibly forget him.
The American Centre for Creative Leadership has conducted research on 191 successful corporate leaders, and found that these people succeed because they know how to create opportunities, and utilise those opportunities to raise questions.
Chairperson of DuPont, Chales O Holliday once said: I realise that every time someone asks me a question, I become a lot more aware—as if I am a different person. I try doing the same thing everyday: question. Before understanding someone’s point of view, I rarely comment. Only when they open up will I take action. If I do not question, I may underestimate a problem, or miss the point of a situation.
Leaders like Welch and Holiday understand the power of asking questions. It helps us to think out of the box, and consider new directions. It helps give clarity to our thoughts, stimulate our imagination and generate innovative solutions.
Of course, we need to master the skill of it. Questions such as: how is the progress of your work? Who are the ones that can’t keep up? What is the problem… etc, are usually not game-changers. On the contrary, it might affect workers’ morale. Therefore, it is not about asking a lot of questions, but rather asking the right ones.
Our eastern, reserved culture has made us averse to asking questions, especially concerning difficult issues. We like to think that questioning is rude, and it always seem like having an answer is more important than having a question. Having a question means you do not have an answer, and not having an answer is deemed as incompetent.
The importance of questioning is closely linked to learning. When you start asking questions, that means you are also committed to seeking answers. This process leads you on a path of steep learning curves, and leaders can better shape an environment that is conducive for their team.
As a leader, I constantly wonder how can I lead my team better and avoid stagnation. I understand the importance of asking questions, because it is the only way we can keep improving. Sheer hard work without constant inspection and reflection isn’t enough to create success.
If you are a leader, remember to create the culture of questioning—maybe then you would be able to hear surprising, creative opinions and solutions from your team.
If you are a follower, do not fear that asking questions would expose your lack of knowledge. In fact, asking is often the key to growth and facilitating opinions.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column column_padding=”no-extra-padding” column_padding_position=”all” background_color_opacity=”1″ background_hover_color_opacity=”1″ width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]成功人士共同点：培养自己成为提问型领导者（Leading with question）
奇异（GE）前总裁杰克.威尔许（Jack Welch）在其自传中提到，他刚初上任时，曾经想管理大师彼得.杜拉克(Peter Drucker) 请教。他问杜拉克，“奇异太多子公司了，很难管理，你认为该如何处理？”杜拉克没有直接回答他的问题，却反问他两个问题：
美国创新领导中心（Centre for Creative Leadership）曾针对191位成功的企业领袖做研究，发现这些人之所以成功，关键在于他们懂得制造提问机会，然后接着提问。
像威尔许以及查得这样成功领袖都发现了提问的惊人力量，提问可以让一个人跳脱原有的思想框架（Thinking Out of The Box），朝自己都未曾探索的方向前进，让我们思绪变得更清晰，激发创意，帮助我们寻找自己不知道的所有问题的答案，让你更懂得倾听以及说服。