Leaders, when in doubt – ask the right questions

Guest Post by Denis McLaughlin

Leaders: Are you confused and concerned? Do you lack the confidence to move forward?

Ask the right questions and you will understand.

As leaders we want to have all the answers all the time. Well that isn’t always possible. We don’t control everything so we won’t always know everything. We might not understand why our boss is assigning a project to us. We may be short on facts as to why our colleagues are making the decisions they are. These decisions may have an impact on how we lead our teams. You are confused, you are concerned, and you are unable to lead in confidence. The only sure way to resolve this dilemma is to ask the right questions.

“If you do not ask the right questions, you do not get the right answers….Only the inquiring mind solves problems.” – Edward Hodnett

When you are confused: You don’t understand why things are happening the way they are. You don’t think the decisions being made line up with the vision of the company. Relax.   It may be that all is well with the plan, but it hasn’t been explained in a way that makes sense to you – yet. Ask the right questions and you will understand.

“Confusion is a word we have invented for an order which is not yet understood” – Henry Miller

When you are concerned: If your assumptions are correct and there is a new vision, a new plan, then there are impacts to you and your team. If there are new goals then you need to know. No need to worry. Once you understand you will adjust and lead your team. Ask the right questions and you will understand.

“There is a great difference between worry and concern. A worried person sees a problem, and a concerned person solves a problem.” – Harold Stephens

When you lack confidence: You aren’t sure which road to take because you don’t know if the company is heading for the same destination as you once thought. If you knew the vision you would diligently pursue it. Rest assured, you will lead without fear once again. Ask the right questions and you will understand.

“Confidence comes not from always being right, but from not fearing to be wrong.”-  Peter T. Mcintyre

If you are feeling confused, concerned and don’t have that old confidence anymore because things have changed, here’s what you do: Ask the right questions and you will understand.

  • What is the new issue that needs to be resolved?
  • What is the new plan for future decisions to be made?
  • What is the new end state look like?
  • What can I do to add value to the new process?

Note from Bob:  What is going on inside you when you are feeling confused, concerned or lacking in confidence?  Might it be because you don’t have all the answers?  Denis has given you a “Break-through Thought”: You don’t have to have all the answers!  You just need a few questions!



Denis G. McLaughlinAuthor, Leadership and Team Building Expert, Mentor and Teacher.  Denis is the author of the best-selling book The Leadership GPS, and an executive leader with over twenty-five years of experience building and leading teams.  You can connect with Denis @ DenisMcLaughlin.com



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2 thoughts on “Leaders, when in doubt – ask the right questions

  1. Pam Smith says:

    A slightly different look at being confused: I learned from a former company president that the statement “I’m confused” with a perplexed look followed by stating what appears to be contradictory is actually a powerful hidden question. It alerts another person that something appears out of alignment and then gives the other person an opportunity to clarify.

    A real life example of an employee to a supervisor: “I’m confused…our mission statement says we will be ethical in all we do yet we are planning to ship a product that isn’t ready so that we avoid a penalty.”

    The result of this exchange was that the owner of the company chose to align with the mission statement, fixed the product, and paid the penalty. Now, that’s powerful.

    1. Bob Tiede says:

      Pam you always add value! Thank You!

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