The most important thing in my engineering education was that it taught me to question even those things I thought I knew. I learned that wisdom comes from insightful questions and seeking the answers. We must look at everything from many perspectives to be able to ask the right questions.
The difficult is what takes a little time; the impossible is what takes a little longer.” — Fridtjof Nansen
We Need Agile Leaders
Agile Leadership is a leadership style where the leader values the need to adapt to changing conditions, with the ability to embrace new active behaviours based on new requirements and the challenges of a chaotic, even volatile marketplace driving a magnitude of change, with the potential to confound by its daunting complexity and uncertainty.
Agile leaders are “Learning Leaders” who can stay flexible, grow from mistakes, and handle a diverse range of challenges. They learn by asking insightful questions.
It is not the answer that enlightens, but the question.” – Eugene Ionesco
Agile leaders can sense an organization’s needs for significant change. They respond to opportunities or obstacles through planning, swift execution without losing momentum or alignment.
Agile leadership is inclusive, democratic, and exhibits a greater openness to ideas and innovations. With a passion for learning, a focus on developing people, and a keen ability to define and communicate.
The core of the Agile leadership style’s intent is not just surviving amid chaos but quickly adapt and create a new future through demonstrating imaginative and insightful leadership when the status quo is challenged.
Leaders Think They Need to be Perfect
Bureaucracies are built by and for people who busy themselves proving they are necessary, especially when they suspect they aren’t.” — Ricardo Semler
In many organizations, claiming you are right means that you have authority. We reward this superiority. Questions are not allowed. The reality is the lack of a challenging mentality is an expensive mistake to make — companies end up working on the wrong problem.
Leadership models need to shift from owning knowledge to promoting a culture of curiosity — an agile leader.
Leaders help identify problems or opportunities that need to be solved. Team members have the ability and responsibility to find their solutions. Encourage your people to ask questions. Hold back your impulses; resist the temptation for a quick answer.
Leading with questions is an invitation for everyone to think. When you engage a full diversity of thought, you get much better answers. The prime focus for diversity initiatives has been on fairness for defined populations. It goes further — a more powerful and nuanced kind of diversity: thought diversity.
Diversity of thought refers to a concept that all of us know intuitively and experience throughout our lives.” – Deloitte - Diversity’s new frontier
Real Insight Lies in the Questions
You do not learn unless you question.” — Warren Berger, A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas
Your organizational culture shapes How your people deal with questions. Your team will become more innovative, the companies and people that resist changing the most tend to ask very few questions.
Power-driven executives fear their expertise and authority can lose relevance. They believe they can protect their positions by owning the answers. However, providing wisdom is a more effective way of staying relevant — the power of questions.
The key to wisdom is this – constant and frequent questioning, for by doubting we are led to question, by questioning we arrive at the truth.” — Peter Abelard
A wise leader is comfortable challenging their assumptions. Wisdom, like leadership, is not defined by a title. A wise leader encourages us (or their team) to find solutions on our terms. Early in my career, I discovered that coaching team members to ask better questions created better solutions. The essence of problem-solving lies in the journey toward the solution.
Look Beyond Lazy Solutions
Agile leaders challenge staff to look beyond lazy solutions. Easy access to information promotes short-term curiosity. Most people seek easy answers, not actual knowledge.
I guess that is why 95% of people do not check past Google’s page one results and companies pay big bucks to get placed on the first page and in the first position. The average click-through-rate (CTR) for the first position is 19.3% whereas the second position CTR is 10.6% almost halving, third is down to 7.5% and fourth to 4.6%.
Thoughtful questions move us from our comfort zone to the discovery zone. They provoke deep thinking to uncover practical solutions. Questions are a catalyst that can reveal change and possibilities.
A beautiful question is an ambitious yet actionable question that shifts the way we perceive or think about something.” — Warren Berger
Berger focuses on questions that will lead to action.
Agile leaders guide their team’s discovery through questions. They avoid quick short-term fixes. Our talent analytics provide insights using behavioural DNA. Agile leaders share a standard set of traits. Learn what you have naturally and what you need to develop to be an agile leader.
How You Lead with Questions
Questions are the frames into which the answers fall.” — Tina Seelig
Challenge Existing Assumptions
Perfectionism is the enemy of change. It is impossible to improve something when there is nothing wrong. Our blind spots get us into trouble — what individuals or teams do not know — causes most of the corporate failures.
Many organizations do not encourage people to ask questions — challenging your boss, or the status quo is seen as disrespectful. However, not acting upon the issues can cause more harm than putting someone’s prestige at risk.
Start by challenging your assumptions. Embracing vulnerability rather than certainty is anything but weakness. It proves your commitment to continuous improvement.
A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer.” — Bruce Lee
As a second step consider identifying what your boss would answer if asked: “If you leave the company, what would you like the new person to change?” Reframe your answer as a question to ask your boss, something like — “If we could find a way to ____, would that be of any value to you and the organization?”
The answer is likely to be yes. Be prepared to volunteer to pull a little team together to see if you can come up with something.
Reframe the Problem
We tend to operate in solution mode. We all jump way too fast to solutions. However, in our rush to show how smart we are, we move to answer the wrong question.
If the ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster.” ― Stephen R. Covey
Berger explains that Airbnb’s $10 billion valuation all started with a Beautiful Question: “Why should you be stuck without a bed if I have got an extra air mattress?”
Insightful questions are not just about you. They help realize other people’s problems.
I have written how the brainwriting technique radically improves brainstorming. It is even more useful when you brainwrite questions not ideas. The process forces us to focus on better understanding the problem, rather than jumping into the solutions. Start with:
- Why does the problem exist?
- What does it say about our company?
- Is there a more significant problem behind it that we are missing?
Brainstorming questions helps people dig deeper into a problem. They focus on solving the right challenge. It starts by challenging the problem itself.
Create a Culture of Curiosity
Curiosity is the mother of innovation. To unleash your team’s creativity does not need complicated questions. Sometimes, more straightforward questions can find solutions behind the status quo. Curiosity is about challenging our daily reality — what others accept as ‘normal,’ you turn it into a question.
Many people stop being curious about new experiences as they assume responsibilities and build routines. Their sense of wonder starts to escape them. However, you can change that, especially if you are still looking for meaning and fulfillment in what you do daily.
Don’t think about why you question, simply don’t stop questioning. Don’t worry about what you can’t answer, and don’t try to explain what you can’t know. Curiosity is its own reason. Aren’t you in awe when you contemplate the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvellous structure behind reality? And this is the miracle of the human mind — to use its constructions, concepts, and formulas as tools to explain what man sees, feels and touches. Try to comprehend a little more each day. Have holy curiosity.” — Albert Einstein
Remember — Everyone Was Born Curious
As we age, our natural creative genius is increasingly stifled. A longitudinal study by NASA showed:
- between ages 4 and 5 — 98 percent fell in the genius category of imagination
- at ten years old — 30 percent fell in the genius category of imagination
- at fifteen years old — 12 percent fell in the genius category of imagination
- as adults — 2 percent fell in the genius category of imagination
Encourage everyone on your team to reignite their creative genius.
You need to turn to ask questions into ongoing practice. Creating a culture of curiosity also leverages the power of quiet people. The introverts on your team will feel more comfortable asking questions that sharing their ideas out loud.
Coach Your Team to Ask Better Questions
The best scientists and explorers have the attributes of kids! They ask questions and have a sense of wonder. They have curiosity. ‘Who, what, where, why, when and how!’ They never stop asking questions, and I never stop asking questions, just like a five-year-old.” – Sylvia Earle
Our brain likes to ask lazy questions — we substitute questions with easier ones to save energy and time.
When faced with a difficult question, we often answer an easier one instead, usually without noticing the substitution.” — Daniel Kahneman, Nobel laureate and psychologist
“How can we play better?” versus “What’s driving our success?
Do not focus on the positive. People are less likely to lie when questioners make pessimistic assumptions versus optimistic ones.
Avoid closed questions. A closed question forces us to select between existing options. Weak questions make us settle for lazy answers. Encourage your team to challenge the questions — do not settle for lazy problems.
Use Questions to Encourage Transparency
The emergence of the internet-of-things has made this the decade of sensors. All is possible to measure with the right sensors. Every person in your organization is a sensor. An agile leader knows that with the increasing complexity and speed of business, they must pay attention to every signal. If a problem makes it to the top — it might be too late to fix it.
You need to find out — What is everyone thinking but no one is saying?
Encouraging your team to ask questions will increase communication, collaboration, and transparency. You can identify and address problems before they escalate.
With transparency, you remove the drama behind questions. Instead of being defensive your team will enjoy the challenge. With an open-dialogue culture, you move from providing feedback via “what if?” rather than “you should…”
For some people, questioning is a natural trait; for most, you need to develop the competency. Knowing the behavioural traits of your team, allows you to assemble teams with a diversity of traits. Putting together teams in this manners is an excellent development strategy. You will produce exceptional results while your people are learning and growing.
Curiosity Pays Dividends
Creating a culture of curiosity takes time. We are wired to impress others with our brilliance rather than to challenge reality. We must become comfortable with navigating uncertainty.
If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.” — W.C. Fields
W.C, Fields would not be successful in business today. With the power of questions you will:
- unlock value in organizations
- turn blind spots into bright spots
- fuel innovation
- drives continuous improvement
- create a culture of transparency and collaboration
- focus efforts on solving the right problem
- builds trust
Leading with insightful questions is an excellent competency to master. Our process to develop strategy consists of answering five interlinked questions. Please let me know if you would like to learn more about this powerful technique.
Insights About Your Behavioral DNA Can Advance Your Career
We are incredibly passionate about Behavioral DNA and the impact this scientific insight can have on you. Using SuccessFinder, you can discover your behavioral strengths and challenges.
High-performers in the same role share a common subset of behaviors. Our talent analytics compares your talent stack — behavioral traits and competencies — with high performers. We show you how to leverage your unique talents to achieve career satisfaction and success.
Focus on your strengths and manage your challenges. You complete the assessment online, we then provide you report and personal feedback via video call. We offer the service worldwide. We’d love to hear from you!