Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Never mind the answer, how good was the question?

Questions - A vital element of a leaders toolkit.

I recently had the privilege of being asked to speak to a Front Runner course being put on by Common Purpose at Brookes University in Oxford on the importance of questions in Leadership.  This was a privilege in many ways; I was asked by Common Purpose; I am an Alumni of Brookes; I was the first business speaker to adress the students; I knew the audience would challenge what ever I said.

In planning for the 30 minute session I recognised a number of key areas that needed to be adressed.  Here are some of the things we covered.

Initial Leadership:  When first starting out to lead a team, or a group, it is the questions that leaders ask that will lay the foundations for the spirit within the team.  It is also how they are phrased and how we listen to the replies that is important.

Making that good first impression on a team is vital, active listening and open questions are essential to to the team knowing you are empathetic to their needs, skills and potential to the project.

Establishing Your Team :  As the team develops your questions need to evolve.  You need to seek to understand who is struggling with their roles, what the results are and to make sure the team pulls together.  All this in my opinion can be achieved with the help of good questioning.

Concluding a Project: At the end of your teams work it is essential to draw quality feedback from them. The quality of your final report, or outcomes, will reflect the quality of your final questions, as will the spirit or your team.  However another key area will be your ability to respond to questioning, so be prepared for some impromptu speaking to your up line!

It was an interesting session and the students engaged well, we even managed to squeeze in a couple of of them standing up and feeding back their learns to the room.

So if you are unhappy with the answers you get from your team, or your customers, have a close look at the questions you are asking.  Accurate and relavent responses start with well structured and thought through questions.

I hope this has ignited some thoughts around where you can better use questions in your leadership roles and perhaps where you could enhance the ones you already have.  They are a tool for information gathering, motivating and also creating the rapport, from which your sales will come.