Leaders to Leader

Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

Use Questions to Build Rather Than to Devastate or Demolish

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The purpose of good questioning is to support the development of honest and valid relationships and positive feelings of optimism and unity between leaders and employees. It is inevitable that some questions will lead to discovering harsh realities and discouragement.

As leaders instruct and allow their employees to question, they must train them to use what they learn to “build” rather than to “devastate or demolish.” As employees learn to question, it is important to make it clear that their ability to create a positive contribution and impact is recognized.

Questions can be asked in a positive or negative way: “Is the cup half full? Or is it half empty?” As such, the tones of individual questions are able to dramatically influence their response. Optimistically phrased questions invite collaboration as well as open, extensive or expansive answers. While negatively phrased questions tend to cause concern and often result in inadequate information gleaning and gathering. Looking forward with a positive strength of mind, or spirit, results in generating constructive questions that propel the questioner toward identifying and attaining optimal solutions

Optimism is typically based on the belief that things will work out for the best. Many times throughout the question and answer process there is insufficient information to make even an educated guess about an outcome. However, thinking critically and positively in the best manner possible pays off.

Thinking, in the best way possible, is not simplistic or idealistic. It is being prepared for the worst but believing the best will happen. To avoid being ill equipped for facing or acknowledging the unpleasant, the key question to keep in mind is, “What is the worst that could (or will) happen?” Responding to this question provokes preparation while supporting the forward momentum of positive thinking.

Provide a Safe Psychological Questioning Environment for Optimism to Flourish

Just as the workplace needs to provide a safe physical environment to protect their employees, leaders need to provide them a safe psychological environment to nurture their growth. One way is to encourage them to develop a “benefit of the doubt” attitude. This attitude allows everyone to step back and consider other explanations when numerous questions and answers might otherwise lead to a negative conclusion.

Leaders have an important role to play in establishing the positive strength of mind or “spirit” that works to carry employees through tough times and disillusioning moments. An optimistic view of situations, events, issues and circumstances is essential, especially in times of uncertainty and rapid change.

Of course, how each employee chooses to establish his or her sense of optimism or belief is a matter of individual conscience or persuasion. But, every employee within the workplace does deserve an opportunity to question, and to grow and develop by adhering to a personal set of ethical, honorable, and just set of principles. This is what will guard against the advancement and growth of cynicism.

Encourage Optimism and the Benefit of the Doubt

As with most powerful tools, questions can be used to construct potent organizations, or destroy workplaces. Leaders can help shape employee questioning skills toward building a positive workplace by teaching them to consider looking at things through a “cup that is half full, rather than half empty.”

Questioning is at the heart of critical and creative thinking, yet many leaders provide too few opportunities for employees to ask or investigate things through questions that flow out of their own natural sense of interest, concern and curiosity. When leaders begin to encourage more questioning within the workplace, without putting up a wall of resistance or expectations, they can establish a solid foundation for relationship building, comradery and synergy throughout the workplace. These questioning skills can become the basis for successful personal development and adjustment in a rapidly changing, uncertain work environment.

To Generate Higher Levels of Optimism Guard Against Excessive Routine and Simplistic Questioning

Any system that cannot tolerate change is open to destruction. As such, questions about “how,” “why,” and “what if” can be mentally stimulating and valuable, since they tend to introduce just enough change into stable routines to make them interesting.

The constant flow of good and insightful questions tends to keep routines and optimism alive, and employees flexible. As part of the process the leader must admit they do not have all the answers in order to keep the investigative process robust, optimistic and alive. Instead of allowing a good question to go by the wayside, bring the creative process into focus by saying something like: “Let’s think about how we might answer that one.” or, “That’s a great question!” Most importantly, the leader must bring their own way of asking and answering questions out in the open so employees can see how their mind works.

Related:

Correctly Framing Problems Pinpoints the Right Solution

Building Critical Thinking Skills to Enhance Employee Comprehension and Decision Making

Communication Must Be Personalized To Be Effective

Excerpt: Effective Questioning in the Workplace: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 19.95 USD

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

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Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

February 1, 2013 at 11:27 am

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