Last week, I had the opportunity to be with John Maxwell at an event to raise money to train leaders around the world. It was an outstanding experience. One of the highlights was a session John led about questions that changed his life.
I’ve long been a fan of great questions. I’ve even created an outline for a book I may write some day on this topic. However, John has beat me to it. He’s in the final stages of a manuscript on questions leaders ask. I can’t wait to read it.
From what John said, it appears as though the book will cover the topic in depth and from multiple angles. Here are a few of the ideas he shared regarding why this is such an important topic for leaders…
- You only get answers to the questions you ask. Can you think of a meeting you participated in but left not having your questions answered? Was it because you didn’t ask them? What question(s) do you need to ask this week?
- Questions unlock and open doors that otherwise remain closed. Have you ever asked for something and been shocked when your request was granted? I had a meal with Edward de Bono, the world’s leading authority on creative thinking, because I approached him after he spoke at a conference and invited him out to lunch. He told me that someone had recently paid $25,000 to have a meal with him – all it cost me was a question and a pastrami sandwich!
- Questions are the best way to connect with people. When we express our interest in others by asking questions of them, we are sending strong signals they matter. We can also learn much more about their interests, passions, hopes and concerns when we’re listening rather than talking. People love it when their leaders are good listeners. Questions can help.
Finally, John shared seven questions he’s used for years when he's with men and women who are faster, smarter, stronger and more experienced than he is. These are questions he said have changed his life and continue to mark his leadership.
1. What’s the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
2. What are you learning now?
3. How has failure shaped your life?
4. Who do you know that I should know?
5. What have you read that I should read?
6. What have you done that I should do?
7. How can I add value to you?
As I listened to John, I was reminded of a meeting several years ago in which Jim Collins challenged me and all the leaders in our organization to double our question to statement ratio within 12 months, and then he said we should double it again in the following 12 months!
I’ve been working on this for years now and here’s my conclusion:
The more questions I ask, the better I lead.
Thanks, John, for challenging me again - great leaders ask great questions.[GLS_Shield]
How’s your question to statement ratio?