If you watch leaders at work, a number of attributes and skills can be observed. The first and foremost is the ability to envisage the future and how it might be different, with this comes the ability to understand the external environment enough to translate trends and predictions into internal actions that will meet them.
The next thing you will notice is their unbounded curiosity and willingness to listen. They need to acquire this understanding to interpret the views of others. Within this latter skill we find another skill, that of asking questions that afford the opportunity to understand the wider picture and the details that will be crucial to success.
The quality of the questions we ask determines the quality of the information offered. Here is a hierarchy of questions that works to establish purpose and direction:
- Why – purpose
- What – objectives
- When – concrete timelines
- How – to create forward movement
- Where to distribute effort
- To Whom shall we delegate
- Which – divide into sub-goals
I know that you know that I know, that you know all of this. I speculate that your knowledge does not translate into practice so here is an exercise for you:
Day 1. See if you can get through the first hour of interaction (in any form) without asking a closed question (they all begin with verbs: Will you, can you, do you etc.)
Day 2. Since you failed on Day 1 have another go.
Day 3. Maybe you succeeded on Day 2 so up your game to the half day. Carry on until it becomes a habit, you will enhance your influence, unlock potential in your people and start to glimpse business in a slightly more strategic way.
For more on this, consider enrolling on the next series of our Foundations of Management course, starting in September, which provides the key requirements to turn managers into leaders.