Successful business leaders ask questions to grow and improve their leadership skills, but what types of questions do they ask?
Naturally, we reflected on this thought and began to consider what questions leaders in the hardwood lumber industry ask to improve operational processes, create clearer strategies, and enhance working conditions for their organizations.
Here are a few key questions we have found valuable.
- Can we simplify? It is easy to over-complicate a project. Businesses, like people, tend to overcomplicate things. This can make it hard to accomplish objectives. Business leaders play a key role in combating this trend by taking a step back and asking those involved if there is a more efficient way to get things done.
- Are the reasons for undertaking this project still valid? Questioning the purpose of a project can help clarify the thinking process among team members. It is important to keep in mind that the questions should be in the spirit of promoting success and opening perspectives that might lead to more efficient ways of reaching a goal.
- Can you explain how this will work? Occasionally we start a project convinced that we have a solution to a specific problem. This type of thinking usually occurs in situations where knowledge and expertise point towards one solution. At this point, a leader can step in and ask for clarification on what the solution will look like and how it will address the problem at hand.
The answers that you receive when asking these questions may reveal gaps that could hamper progress in the future. These could be gaps in knowledge or even assumptions that have been made by team members. However, by asking the right questions, it will act as a reset button to help people rethink things through on a deeper level and spot issues that may have not previously been considered.
Here are a few questions we found useful in removing hidden assumptions and breaking out of conventional ways of thinking.
- “If you were in charge, what would you do differently?”
- “What layers of review or approval should we abolish to be more efficient?”
- It may even be helpful to yourself “What assumptions do I bring to work every day about our business? What different ways of thinking and processing information might work better for me?”
When you are in the habit of asking great questions, you should also be prepared to listen to the answers. It is imperative to reduce the internal dialog in your head as well as fighting the impulse to jump in before a person is finished answering the question. These traits only get in the way of a fruitful exchange of information.
What questions do you find helpful when trying to lead others?