Excerpted from the Introduction of “Asking Great Questions – An Essential Companion for Every Leader” by Aileen Gibb
The word “Question” contains the word “Quest”.
Quests are an invitation to adventure, to exploration, to discovery of new lands. Quests open you up to learning and growth. Quests reveal what you’re capable of and ultimately transform you.
All Quests start with a Question.
Yet Questions are one of the most under utilized tools for leaders today.
Great Questions will stop you in your tracks. Will make you think more deeply about what’s in front of you. Will inspire you to look at challenges in new ways. Will open you up to new possibilities and to solutions you would not otherwise have considered.
Great Questions create conversations. Real conversations that slow you down in the busy rush of every day and invite you to focus more clearly. Complete conversations that go deeper than the superficial chit-chat that may consume much of your day. Conversations where you take time to explore options in order to make better, more productive and often more creative decisions.
Questions invite you to approach things differently. To be curious. To look more deeply into what you’re capable of creating —alone and together with your colleagues.
Questions connect people and inspire curiosity about what’s possible.
Questions can lead to innovation, creativity, accountability and ownership — all the things companies say are essential to success in today’s fast-paced, ever-evolving, environment. Yet questions are seldom the first thing out of a leader’s mouth. Our prevailing belief is that leadership relies on having the ‘right’ answers, rather than on asking genuine questions. People in formal positions of leadership often feel pressure to have the solutions, to make the decisions and to take all the responsibility.
Great Questions invite anyone — yes anyone — to take on the mantle of being a leader.
Questions make it easier to speak up, to add your ideas, to have your thoughts heard, to hear the thoughts of other people and to take action on things you really believe are important.
Questions equip you to disrupt the status quo. To effectively challenge the way things have always been done. To explore whether the answers that have always been relied on, truly are in service of today’s goals for you, your team or your business.
Questions connect people and create opportunities to learn from people who see the world from a different perspective than the one you habitually take. Questions build relationships and take conversations to deeper, more meaningful, more useful and more inspiring places.
And the best Questions take you to places you’ve never been before — into the ‘don’t know’ space, where you discover new possibilities that were previously hidden to you in your business and in your life. Once there, you’ll find even more questions that you haven’t asked before.
Think of Questions as a daily practice that invites you to be curious, creative, interested, intrigued and constantly evolving as a leader.
Find a Question you haven’t asked before. Ask it. Then listen carefully — very carefully — into what happens in the space your question creates. Listen in for what you haven’t heard before. Slow down and wait for the unexpected to emerge. Watch for something you hadn’t previously seen or heard. Prepare to be surprised.
The Questions in this book will inspire you to set out on new Quests with and for your team. It will open up new adventures and take your business to destinations you didn’t believe were reachable. Even if you don’t formally think of yourself as a leader, asking the Questions in this book will bring out the leader in you.
Great Questions, combined with great listening, inspire great conversations which in turn shift relationships, transforming and creating leaders at all levels in organizations and communities. Leaders, not by virtue of position or job title. Leaders who, by asking more questions, uncover and reveal new paths along which you may travel in your quest for a better world. It starts with you and the Questions you find the courage to ask.
Aileen Gibb is a master coach and conversationalist, who works with mission-driven leaders and their teams around the globe, inspiring conversation cultures in organizations large and small. Her new book, Asking Great Questions: an Essential Companion for Every Leader, contains over 1500 questions and provocative statements to kick-start difference-making conversations with individuals, with teams and as a powerful self-reflection tool for leaders. Once a year she invites a diverse group of leaders into a week-long intensive to practice the arts of listening, questioning and conversation as a leadership edge. Send her an email to join her next sabbatical-like, life enhancing week @ firstname.lastname@example.org or connect with her on her website: AileenGibb.com