One thing that great leaders, excellent consultants, and master facilitators have in common is the ability and the practice of asking great questions. Great questions immediately evoke deep, reflective, thoughtful answers from team members and move the group closer to substantial decisions, solutions, and innovations.
One of Marshall Goldsmith’s fatal flaws of successful people (from What Got You Here Won’t Get You There) is the need to show how smart we are. Interestingly, the first bit of counsel I give to those learning to facilitate difficult discussions (like diversity conversations) is, “try not to be so smart.” When you want to look smart, you become defensive when others challenge your point of view. When you want to be a great leader, you become curious (turn to wonder) when others challenge your point of view. It is more constructive to respond with a great question (why do you say that?) rather than a defensive statement (trust me, I know what I’m talking about!).
By the way, when I ask busy executives and successful entrepreneurs to identify which of the fatal flaws (twenty total) they may be guilty of, the response is predictable. Rarely can they identify any definite flaws and at best will admit to sometimes falling into one of the traps (maybe). The reason is that they (like all human kind) have blind spots. It is difficult to be objective about your own stuff. No matter how smart you are or how skilled you are, you also have blind spots – the result of your unique perspective and point of view. Have you ever gotten stuck on seemingly small issues that confound you, frustrate you, or even paralyze you? Let’s face it; we all need a jump-start, a kick in the pants, assurance or reassurance occasionally. We need to stop “breathing our own exhaust”.
Consider these three simple questions as you assess yourself as a top performer:
The top players in all games, including business CEOs, have coaches. Why don’t you?