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Are you a ‘Know it All’?

The Seduction

There is a lot of pressure on managers to know a lot of things.

Competence is king. It is the vehicle we hitch our wagon to in order to gain climbing rights up the corporate hierarchy. We shower praise on those who seem to know best. Heck, if they really know their stuff we assign the ultimate accolade by calling them a leader.

So why wouldn’t we want to demonstrate our hard earned knowledge? It has been valued by societies, communities and tribes since the beginning of time. The caveman or cavewoman who knew how to create fire for warmth and cooking would have enjoyed unparalleled currency. A primitive form of ‘corporate knowledge’ if you like. The seduction to ‘know’ can be all-consuming.

And therein lies the problem. The seduction is strong for us to lead through answers, not questions. The downside of ‘telling’ versus ‘asking’ is not a new idea, however it remains an uncommon management trait.

The ‘Why’

Here are the top five reasons why we should ask more questions:

  1. Crystallise: It gets other to think more broadly and deeply.
  2. Contain: It places the problem or challenge where it belongs – with those who have the problem or challenge.
  3. Capability: It builds capability while getting the task done.
  4. Create: It creates a learning environment.
  5. Challenge: It challenges the status quo by raising the heat.

The Challenge

Here are five ways to make asking questions a greater part of your approach and management:

  1. Awareness: Raise your awareness of the ratio of asking versus telling (you might be shocked).
  2. Ask: Ask more questions than telling (what you think to be the right answer or advice). Aim for 50:50 as a starting point.
  3. Appreciate: Uplift and appreciate those around you who ask good questions.
  4. Aerate: Create the ‘breathing space’ for questions and robust conversations to occur. Don’t just run meetings that are transactional and tactical.
  5. Agitate: Practice disrupting conversation flows and business-as-usual practices and processes by asking good open questions.

Let me know your thoughts and how you go. Watch the response you get from those around you. The results might surprise.