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Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

Archive for the ‘Critical Thinking’ Category

Seven Components of Critical Thinking

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Critical thinking is a powerful process if understood and applied effectively. When developing critical thinking skills, it is important to understand more about the activity and process that comprises it. Once understood, fears about actively applying critical thinking skills will likely dissipate. Critical thinking is able to translate the thinking process into clear, persuasive, truthful language, which is carefully and logically crafted. At the same time it is able to convert perceptions and reactions into concepts, ideas, assumptions, suppositions, inferences, hypotheses, questions, beliefs, premises and logical arguments.

There are many misconceptions about critical thinking that tend to hinder individuals from continually working to develop it. Unfortunately many assume the process is too difficult and remain unenlightened as to how the process can help them not only in their work environments, but in their own personal lives as well.

Four roadblocks often create negative feelings about getting more involved in the critical thinking process:

  • It is more of a negative process, since it tends to tear down ideas and inserts nothing in their place. In actuality, it is a positive process that is able to put things in a more realistic perspective.
  • It will lead to the inability to make commitments to people or ideas. In actuality, commitments become informed ones.
  • It seems to involve traumatic change since one is expected to continually abandon old assumptions. In actuality, some beliefs stay the same individuals simply become more informed.
  • It is detached, unemotional and cold. In actuality, it is highly poignant and liberating, since individuals tend to be free of their past assumptions and the anxiety of self-scrutiny.

Critical Thinking Encompasses Specific Elements

Every process or method is made of essential components, and critical thinking is no different. These components provide a structure to the process, which if incorporated, makes persuasive, truthful and supportive verbal communication possible to highly influence others’ points of view and message acceptance. The major components in critical thinking include: perception, assumptions, emotion, language, argument, fallacy, logic, and problem solving.

Perception

Perception is considered to be the manner in which individuals receive, interpret and translate experiences. How individuals perceive things works to define how they think. Perception tends to provide individuals a significant filtering system.

Assumptions

Assumptions are central to critical thinking. They tend to be implied, where individuals are not always conscious of them. Assumptions are not always bad and often rest on the notion that some ideas are obvious. They tend to make individuals comfortable with their present beliefs, shutting out any alternatives.

Emotion

Trying to leave emotion out of almost anything is impossible as it is part of everything people do and think. Emotions are the number one cause of creating and putting into place thinking and operating barriers, which are continually used as a defense mechanism. Critical thinkers do not ignore or deny emotions but learn to accept and manage them.

Language

Thinking can’t be separated from language since both tend to have three primary purposes: to inform, persuade and explain. Language denotes (designates meanings) and connotes (implies or suggests something), and relies heavily on the use of metaphors. Metaphors are powerful language tools, which are able to influence how individuals think and problem solve. These figures of speech give great color and depth to one’s language. Metaphors can be short phrases, stories, or even poetic renditions and is a verbal message that listeners can easily interpret and visualize.

Argument

An argument is a claim, which is used to persuade that something is (or is not) true, or should (or should not) be done. An argument contains three basic elements: an issue, one or more reasons or premises, and one or more conclusions. An argument can be either valid or invalid based on its structure and only premises & conclusions are reached, which are either true or false.

The goal of critical thinking is to implement a sound argument, which has both a valid or proper structure and contains true premises. This is where using logic makes all the difference.

Fallacy

Reasoning that doesn’t meet the criteria for being a sound argument is considered erroneous, or fallacious. A fallacy comes from incorrect patterns of reasoning. However, it does not always mean that the conclusion is false, but it does underscore the fact that the reasoning used to support it is not: valid, based on true premises, or complete and does not include all necessary relevant information.

Logic

Logic incorporates two methods or types of reasoning: deductive and inductive. Deductive reasoning relies on facts, certainty, syllogisms, validity, truth of premises sound arguments and supported conclusions. Inductive reasoning relies on diverse facts, probability, generalizations, hypotheses, analogies and inductive strength.

Problem Solving Through Logic

A logic problem is like any problem. It requires:

  • Understanding the problem. In other words, listen, read & take heed.
  • Identifying all of the “unknowns” as well as the “knowns.”
  • Interpreting relationships between them (visual aids can help).
  • Generating a strategy from steps two and three.
  • Applying the strategy and solving the problem.
  • Repeating the process if it is necessary.

Excerpt: Developing Critical Thinking Skills: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 19.95 USD

Related:

The Six Phases of Critical Thinking

Decision-Making Begins When an Action Needs to Be Taken

Correctly Framing Problems Pinpoints the Right Solution

Leaders Need to Focus on Questions Rather Than Offering Answers

Six Critical Issues To Consider When Solving Problems

For Additional Information the Author Recommends the Following Books:

Conflict Resolution: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Series

Intelligent Decision Making: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series

Planning to Maximize Performance: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

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

Six Steps to Educate Employees About Delegated Tasks and Assignments

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Leaders teach employees how to perform their delegated assignments and tasks in order to assure their timely and accurate completion. An effective method of educating employees both ensures complete understanding of assignments and addresses productive ways to complete them successfully.

When tasks are delegated, many leaders become frustrated by the inability of employees to complete assignments in a timely and competent manner. Leaders often feel completing assignments by themselves is easier and faster. This becomes an excuse and a barrier to delegating altogether. It also hampers the leader’s ability to grow and increase their productivity.

Leaders understand that when they begin to delegate tasks and assignments, time and patience are needed to educate their employees to perform competently.

Leaders regularly delegate assignments, but continue to see employees fall short of assignment completion and the expectations set for them. This is often the result of assignments or tasks being misunderstood, ignored, forgotten or viewed as overwhelming. These negative outcomes are generally attributed to improper or ineffective employee education.

Leaders know that in order to increase productivity and results, the first step is to properly educate their employees in how they want the task and assignment carried out and how specifically to do it. Employees must also be made aware of set time frames for accomplishing the work and the desired results the leader expects.

While employees may stumble initially, leaders understand that their proficiency will increase greatly with time and experience.

Use of the following six-step instructional method is a top priority for leaders because it eliminates unsuccessful assignment implementation and completion.

Review the Assignment

In order to effectively educate employees, leaders begin by previewing the overall assignment, task or responsibility. They look at all the components necessary to complete it effectively in a timely fashion and review their personal expectations in regard to it. Developing notes and reference points to use when meeting with individuals to be assigned is essential.

Explain Clearly and Carefully

One main responsibility in educating employees is to make instructions as clear and precise as possible. Leaders know that explaining clearly is a twofold process. They need to present their information in a way that is logical and free of confusion or ambiguity. The other side of clarity is how an employee perceives, interprets and responds to the instructions.

Leaders make it a point to use vocabulary that is on the employee’s level of understanding. Specific examples are used that relate directly to the tasks and expectations within the given assignment. Leaders carefully organize and sequence the components of each task to be assigned. They eliminate irrelevant or unrelated information and are logical and realistic in their expectations and requirements.

Apply ‘Think Time’

It is vital to explain in detail the work that needs to be done. Leaders need to both offer ideas or suggestions as to how best accomplish it and build in “think time” for employees to ponder and absorb what is being said. These are pauses inserted between major points of discussion, and include various essential components related to the task or the employee’s questions regarding the assignment.

There is a time difference between hearing and comprehending. People talk much faster than one can actually listen. This is why leaders make it a point to explain small portions of an overall assignment within a given time frame, affording the necessary space for employees to think through the instructions and various responsibilities that apply to all aspects of their assignment. Additional time is allowed to formulate questions and concerns so employees feel thoroughly prepared.

Assign Reference Materials and Individual Resource People

There may be times throughout the course of an assignment when an employee needs to use outside resources. Leaders cover these contingencies in their instructions.

Employees should be given the names of two or more people that can help them in problem situations. Reference materials should also be offered with detailed explanations of how they can be used and for what types of situations. Discussions and illustrations on how and where to find solutions to problems pertaining to their assignments need to be included in the instructional process.

Repeat and Readdress Directions and Specific Points

As total understanding is key to task achievement, leaders consistently repeat and readdress major points, issues and detailed components of assignments. This repetition focuses the employee’s attention on what is being said. Repeating and readdressing issues also helps leaders avoid inserting last-minute changes in their assignments and/or instructions. It is also a good way to survey the understanding levels of an employee. Leaders find many employees are ready to begin their assignments immediately after one good instructional period. Many will need little or no intervention and prodding afterward.

Self-Test for Assignment Understanding

Leaders encourage employees to test themselves in instructional areas that are not clear to them. The process includes being able to identify and openly state the main idea of the various components, steps, actions and responsibilities in their assignments. They should be able to recall exact directives of each separate phase of their assignment. Employees should be able to verbally detail what they need to do, when it needs to be done, and how best to accomplish it.

Ideas, concepts, methods or areas that remain unclear need to be revisited. Instructions should be given again in a learning style best suited to achieving total understanding. Leaders find that self-testing works effectively at the end of an instructional period to review and solidify the various details and processes within the given assignments.

Excerpt: Delegation: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 18.95 USD

Related:

Five Critical Steps to Maximize Performance

Execution: Six Action Steps

Performance Plans Create Results and Maximizes Performance

Objectives Allow Managers to Focus on Obtaining Results

For Additional Information the Author Recommends the Following Books:

Performance Management: The Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series

Planning to Maximize Performance: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Maximizing Financial Performance: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Improving Workplace Interaction: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

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

Formulating Questions as a Source of Continuous Improvement

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William Hewlett and David Packard - Founders of Hewlett-Packard

William Hewlett and David Packard – Founders of Hewlett-Packard

There is a common misconception that innovation stems from a single “ah-hah” moment. That may be true for the initial idea, but the great and influential leaders experienced long and often painful periods of development and extended periods of refinement before the ideas were manifested into a viable product.

In reality, most innovation is the direct result of a long series of continuous improvements, which serve to perfect both new and existing ideas. For example, there is a television show on the Science Channel entitled, “How It’s Made.” Each episode explains how three or four commonly used products are manufactured. They often showcase complex and automated production machines that produce large volumes of product. As my wife and I watch these programs, we often ask the question, “Who thinks up these intricate machines and complicated processes?” While modern engineers can now design complex production lines, they still remain the result of a long process of continuous improvements that are built upon each other, often over years of design, experimentation and development. Most of these machines were developed with one single automated step. Over time more steps, and more machines were added that ultimately created the entire automated processes one can physically observe today.

This complex engineering concept and its process can be said to originate with George Westinghouse (Westinghouse). “His methodology of observation and research, rough creation via stretching, then engineering drawing, followed by scale modeling, and finally scientific testing defines the discipline of engineering to this day. This pragmatic approach applied science to engineering. The title that is overlooked for Westinghouse is the father of industrial and manufacturing engineering…

Westinghouse had clearly evolved past the trial and error methods of many early Victorian inventors. He started to use science to narrow the scope of experiments needed. This is another example of Westinghouse’s pioneering in the methodology of modern research and development. Men like Edison wasted endless hours in trial and error experiments, while Westinghouse eliminated many trials by the application of science…

Invention was seen as a craft, which would become the discipline of engineering. Westinghouse, more than any of the great Victorian inventers, pioneered the discipline of the engineering craft. His approach would evolve into the corporate approach to research and development used even today.”

Continuous improvement and innovation doesn’t just apply to engineering and industrial production. Effective leaders apply it to all aspects of their business. Alfred Sloan (General Motors) stated, “I made it a practice throughout the 1920s and early thirties to make personal visits to dealers… visiting from five to ten dealers a day. I would meet them in their own places of business and ask them for suggestions and criticisms concerning their relation with the corporation, the character of the product, the corporation’s policies, the trend of consumer demand, their view of the future, and many other things of interest in the business. I made careful notes of all the points that came up, and when I got back home I studied them.”

Henry Luce (Time) “was able to succeed even in areas he knew little about, because he asked all the right questions, and he never stopped asking. For instance, Luce was an avid golfer, but when it came to baseball or boxing, he could not tell the difference between a diamond and a ring. But in launching Sports Illustrated, Luce undertook an intensive cram course in every sport he needed to familiarize himself with. He was determined to learn everything he did not already know, and that he might need to down the road. Luce appreciated the past, looked to the future, and asked all the right questions along the way. He never stopped asking what could be.”

  1.  Quentin R. Skrabec, Jr., George Westinghouse: Gentle Genius (Algora Publishing, New York, 2007) p. 59-60
  2. The Leadership of Alfred Sloan (CareerAge.com)
  3. Carmichael Evan, Lesson #5 Curiosity Never Killed the Cat (www.evancarmichael.com)

Excerpt: Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011)

Read a Free Chapter

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

The Four Building Blocks of Intelligent Decision-Making

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Decision-making is a cognitive process leading to the selection of a course of action among alternatives. Whether an action or opinion, every decision making process produces a final choice.

The decision making process begins when an action needs to be taken, but one doesn’t know exactly what to do or where to begin. The reasoning process can be rational or irrational, with most decisions based on explicit or implied assumptions.

Building Block One: Applying The Principles of Decision Making

Judiciously applying specific decision making principles will more often than not make the difference between taking effective or ineffective action. These principles help ensure that all involved stay focused on their specific work-related duties as well as the overall objective the company is pursuing.

When it comes to effective decision making, paying close attention to the organizational universe is not optional, but critical. The attributes contributing to good decisions can translate directly into tangible benefits when applied to the broader framework of business-related operations. Each decision made should serve as a learning experience, whether or not it proves wise.

How is an effective decision made? Maintaining an understanding of the basic role of one’s organization can support thoughtful planning and processes for decision making objectives, which tend to justify the future course of the company.

There are 10 basic steps to follow when a decision has to be made. These include:

  1. Identify the purpose of the decision. What exactly is the problem to be addressed and why does it need to be solved?
  2. Gather information. What factors does the problem involve?
  3. Identify principles with which to judge the alternatives. What standards and judgment criteria should the solution meet?
  4. Brainstorm and list a wide variety of possible choices.
  5. Generate as many likely solutions as possible.
  6. Evaluate each choice in terms of its consequences, using predetermined standards and judgment criteria to determine the pros and cons of each alternative.
  7. Settle upon the best alternative. This becomes much easier once the above steps have been undertaken.
  8. Translate the decision into a specific action or plan of action steps.
  9. Carefully execute the plan.
  10. Evaluate the outcome of the decision and subsequent action steps. Within this process it is important to identify the lessons learned. This is an important step for further development of more effective decision making skills and judgment.

Building Block Two: Creating an Objectives Hierarchy

The first step in the process is to identify the purpose of the decision making effort: What is the problem and why does it need to be solved?

In order to achieve this end it is important to generate, record and display an objectives hierarchy by creating a list in outline format. (Software applications are also available that allow individuals or groups to create organizational charts that work well in generating visually appealing objectives hierarchies.)

In establishing an objectives hierarchy it is essential to gather as much information as possible to identify the factors involved in the problem. Objectives should flow from “Why?” at higher levels to “How?” at lower levels. Higher-level objectives tend to be broad, inclusive, and even ambiguous, lower-level objectives more specific, which are mapped to real or actual organizational and workplace attributes or characteristics.

The objectives hierarchy should be inclusive, representing a mix of stakeholder views, and not make value judgments in respect to one objective over another.

Building Block Three: Designing Alternatives

For each objective or group of objectives within the hierarchy, it is important to identify the types of actions that would yield the optimal effect.

When designing alternatives, various objectives should have been detailed and considered within the hierarchy. With enough specificity, some may be flagged for specific action or categorized as activity-driven.

Designing alternatives tends to occur in two phases: identifying the principles by which to judge the alternatives—i.e. the standards solutions should meet—and brainstorming, or listing actual potential solutions.

Nine Steps for Identifying Alternatives:

  1. For each objective or group of objectives in the hierarchy, individuals identify the types of actions that would have the desired effect.
  2. Causal pathways among identified variables are reviewed. How might favorable interventions occur in any of these pathways?
  3. Two or more options for addressing each objective are defined. These may be different types of activities, different levels, strategies, or approaches for the same activity type, or modifications to ongoing related activities. If there is already a proposed action, the activities that comprise it are detailed in terms of how they align with the measured criteria in the objectives.
  4. Specific actions are grouped into alternatives. If there are competing objectives (perhaps reflecting different stakeholder values), alternatives can be developed that favor different groupings of objectives. In other words, different balances are sought among objectives in each alternative.
  5. Conversely, the same balance of objectives by different groupings of actions can be striven for.
  6. If based on the effects analysis a revision of alternatives is needed, it is wise to look for simple adjustments first. If major revisions are needed, the objectives hierarchy and decision making model should be revisited to determine whether erroneous or inconsistent logic led to problems.
  7. An open mind should be maintained, with preconceptions about what is the “best choice” not allowed to limit any or all solution options.
  8. For each alternative, specifics as to how, where, what, and when actions will occur should be outlined. Here it is important to make detailed assumptions about each modeled action early and explicitly in order to minimize confusion when placing this information into a structured decision making model.
  9. Results are recorded and activities plotted on a decision making map where appropriate.

Building Block Four: Evaluating Each Choice

For each alternative, it is best to be as specific as possible in terms of how, where, what, and when actions will occur. An analysis of effects may suggest modification of one or more alternatives or the creation of additional alternatives. If the latter is the case it will be prudent to return to the first stage of the process.

It is important to apply standards and judgment criteria (a set of indicators) to determine the pros and cons of each alternative. When the best alternative is identified, a process overview of the selected option is conducted.

During this decision making and planning arena, it is important to make certain that an action or set of actions is specifically geared toward achieving the objectives identified.

Within the evaluation or overview stage, further details can come to light that can either be added to particular action steps or grouped into a different set of alternatives.

Excerpt: Intelligent Decision Making: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 18.95 USD

Related:

How Personal Agendas Can Destroy a Team

The Use of Teams Requires Self-Discipline

Overcoming and Preventing Groupthink

Seven Negative Roles & Behaviors Which Undermine Team Performance

For Additional Information the Author Recommends the Following Books:

A Team’s Purpose, Function & Use: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Building Strong Teams: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series

Building Team Roles & Direction: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Developing a Team Approach: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Developing & Planning for Team Results: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

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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Why Is The Person Asking The Question In The First Place?

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What is your typical response when asked a challenging question?

  • A blank panicked stare followed by a profusion of sweat.
  • Whoa, that came out of left field.
  • I haven’t learned that yet.
  • I didn’t expect you to ask that.
  • Shall I make a few tries at it before admitting that I don’t know the answer?

All of the above responses tend to be real replies often given by employees during a serious or challenging question and answer process or session. Most know that it isn’t the best way to respond, but failed to know what else to say. To be considered fluent and knowledgeable, it is essential to avoid these responses.

However, before responding to a question always consider a response from the questioner’s perspective. In other words: Why is the person asking the question(s) in the first place?

In order to answer questions appropriately and effectively think about asking yourself these questions:

  • What is the individual looking for?
  • What past challenges might this person have had in the organization or with previous employees?
  • What qualities, skills and experiences can you infer are important to the questioner from the question(s) asked?
  • Are the topics or concerns being questioned about in his or her field of expertise, or out of it?
  • Who is asking the question? The owner, manager or a peer or colleague?

What to Avoid When Answering Questions

When answering questions try not to provide a superficial response to any question. This makes the questioning process muddied, as it slows the progress of getting to the issue at hand, as well as at the heart of the question. Avoid offering a broad or general response because an opportunity will be missed to demonstrate understanding about the topic’s concerns, ramifications and issues. Avoid not answering the question, or skirting around it as it implies to the questioner they are not being listened to and they will become frustrated, and will start to tune out the response to the question. Don’t give generic answers, which implies not mirroring the questioner’s words in the response. If the specifics in the answer are not addressed, the questioner will likely be left with the impression that the responder didn’t listen well, didn’t understand the question, or really didn’t care about the seriousness of the question itself. None of these responses leaves a positive impression on the questioner.

Listen Carefully to What the Question Implies, States and Asks

Listening carefully ensures the question was completely understood and can then be answered effectively, or shows if the question is not as clear and concise as it should be. Listening well is an art that involves good eye contact, body language, and other nonverbal cues. It is essential to pay attention to both what is being said and asked and the manner in which it is delivered. As it may well provide valuable tips to formulate effective responses to the question.

Don’t Interrupt the Questioner

Interrupting someone is not just discourteous, but unprofessional. Not intentionally interrupting the questioner demonstrates the strength of one’s listening skills and ability to respond to the questioner’s inquires and to follow directions. If necessary, it is more effective to clarify the question or at the end, simply ask, “Was the question answered clearly enough?’

Provide a Complete and Precise Response

Take the time to formulate a response and remember that a moment of silence to collect one’s thoughts is always acceptable. Begin the answer with a strong, positive opener including key critical points. Be concise, direct and confident while still providing an adequate amount of detail. When answering a question that has multiple components, section it off to ensure that each point was addressed. For example, you might say, “First, I would ____ then I think I would ____.” After completely responding to one or more complex questions, provide a concise summary as to the whole of the topic or issue presented.

There are certain things to avoid when providing a response, such as: rushing through a response, providing only a superficial answer, trailing off at the end of a question, or not responding to prompts or signals that the questioner wants to hear more.

Prove Experience with Examples and Factual Statements

Share some personal experiences while responding which helps convince the questioner that you have the skills or the ability to transfer your knowledge and reasoning into new avenues of applications, perceptions and thinking.

However, make sure not to: reference the example(s) given, repeatedly use the same example during the question and answer process, choose a poor or inappropriate example, or use a good example, but provide it at the wrong time.

Ensure That Explanations Are Optimized

Most likely it will be impossible to give all the answers the questioner desires. Because of this, it is important to convince the individual that you do have: the potential to find out more about the topic being questioned, the ability to transfer knowledge from one situation to another, and the desire to learn quickly and efficiently.

When providing an explanation do not create a link in experience and events from the past to the present and future or miss the opportunity to build confidence based on personal past experiences.

Volunteer More Information than Is Expected

Volunteer information that might not otherwise be asked about. If you have a particular accomplishment that qualifies within a response and it hasn’t come up in the questioning process, make sure to work it in. Modesty and humility are fine personal traits to have, but certain responses can also be used to “sell yourself,” which at times can be extremely beneficial and useful.

In response to a question don’t leave it up to the questioner to “fish” for information in order to get it or miss the opportunity to share unique details that might make you stand out from other employees or individuals.

Demonstrate Your Level of Knowledge

Within responses, bring in points that support your level of knowledge about what is going on within the organization, department and workplace. Take the opportunity during responses to share what you have gained, your knowledge of the industry, and especially your interest in the company. Express your interest verbally through the words you choose as well as in your actions throughout the question and answer process. If you don’t find opportunities to work in certain points of knowledge and interest during the ongoing question and answer process, address it at the end when you are given the opportunity to say something, (which is usually when you are asked if you have any more questions).

When responding to a question, make sure not to let your nervousness and response performance override your interest and enthusiasm during the questioning process or miss opportunities to share your understandings and viewpoints.

Respond Positively to Questions

It is important to frame your responses positively. This can be challenging when asked a question that you do not have an answer for, or when asked about experiences that you don’t yet have. A person can prepare him or herself in advance by anticipating these types of questions, and learning techniques to respond positively.

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

Related:

Not All Questions Are Created Equally

The Importance of Intellectual Honesty

Attention to Minor Details Averts Major Problems

For Additional Information the Author Recommends the Following Books:

Effective Questioning in the Workplace: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Developing Critical Thinking Skills: The Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series

Effective Questioning Techniques: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

The Use and Application of Advanced Questioning: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

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.

September 13, 2013 at 2:52 pm

Leaders Need to Focus on Questions Rather Than Offering Answers

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The tactical approach to questioning is a highly disciplined process. The questioner must take on the role of acting as “an inner critical voice,” which expands another’s mind to skillfully develop deeper critical thinking abilities.

Questioning for thought provoking insight and understanding, and for inducing more in-depth thinking in another individual requires a tactical approach. For instance, verbal contributions that come from employees when they are questioned can be compared to an array of numerous thoughts that simultaneously flow from one’s mind. Yet, all of the thoughts must be dealt with, weighed, and carefully analyzed in an unbiased and fair manner.

If leaders or managers follow up on all of the answers initially given by employees with further questions that work to advance the discussion, employees are forced to think in a disciplined, intellectually responsible manner. At the same time the questioning process continually aids their own personal agenda to gain more insight and knowledge through posing selective, yet effective facilitating discussion lead-ins.

The oldest and still most powerful tool for instilling critical thinking and mental self-evaluation, is questioning. In order to glean and gather as much usable information as possible, and to change individual perceptions about something, leaders and managers must remain focused on interjecting questions to employees, rather than offering answers.

It is important to practice and model the inquiry process, by continually probing employees on topics, subject-related contexts or mental thinking patterns through the use of very specific questions. The abilities individuals gain by becoming involved in the process and by focusing on the elements of reasoning in a disciplined and self-assessing way tend to enhance employees’ sensitivity to others’ points of view, problem solving and decision making skills. A solid questioning process also helps provide a more balanced mental structure and framework to use in the future, which results from generating and incorporating logical mental relationships that tend to enhance more disciplined thought.

There are three basic ways to instill changes and alterations in employees’ thinking: questioning them for viewpoints and perspectives, questioning them for implications and consequences, and questioning them about the question being asked.

Questioning for Viewpoints and Perspectives

As the discussion and questioning leader, it is important encourage employees to slow their thinking down in order to elaborate upon their responses. Employees must be given the opportunity to develop and test their ideas, standpoints and opinions. Leaders must take employee responses seriously and determine to what extent and in what way the information or assertion is true, or if it makes sense. In order to do this, they need to wonder aloud what the employee is saying and thinking, what the person means, the response’s significance, its relationship to other beliefs, and how what is being said can be tested for its reliability.

Most arguments employees give are from a particular, yet structured point of view. As part of the “questioning for viewpoints and perspectives” process, it is essential to attack the argument from a tactical position. It is often necessary to demonstrate that there may be other, equally valid, viewpoints. Some examples of specific questions that are able to generate alternative viewpoints include:

  • What else could be accomplished by doing ____?
  • If we don’t have access to ____ or can’t use ____, what do you think should be done?
  • What are the positives and negatives of ____?
  • How do you think ____ and ____ are alike?
  • Another way to think about this is ____, do you agree?

Implications and Consequences Questions

The argument that employees often give may have logical implications, which can be forecasted. From an “implications and consequence questioning” position, employees should have their arguments challenged. The process requires them to think about if their argument or stance makes sense from a logical standpoint, and if what they say, is desirable and meaningful. Some examples of argument challenging questions include:

  • What are you implying by saying that?
  • What else does this remind you of?
  • How does this information fit into the things we have already learned?
  • What implications does ____ have on this?
  • Why is this necessary to know?
  • What do you think would happen next?
  • What is an alternative to this?
  • If what you said happened, what else could happen as a result? Why?

Questions About the Question

Questions about the question tend to be more reflective. Their purpose is to turn an argument, statement or question back onto itself. In other words, leaders can use questions like the ones below to bounce the ball back onto the employees’ personal argument, position or stance:

  • How can we find out more about what you are saying (or asking)?
  • What assumptions does this question imply?
  • Why do you feel this question is important?
  • To answer this particular question, what questions would have to be answered first?
  • Does this certain question ask us to evaluate something in particular?
  • What is the point of asking about ____?
  • Why do you think the question you asked is important for (me, us) to consider?
  • Why did you phrase this particular question in the way that you did?
  • Does this question fit into the context of our discussion?
  • What does this particular (question, stance, position or opinion) imply?
  • Is it possible to break this question down at all into one or two other ones?
  • Do you think this question is an easy or hard one to answer? Why?
  • Does this question seem clear to you?

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

Related:

Why Is The Person Asking The Question In The First Place?

Making the Questions as Important as the Answers

Correctly Framing Problems Pinpoints the Right Solution

For Additional Information the Author Recommends the Following Books:

The Use and Application of Advanced Questioning: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Effective Questioning in the Workplace: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Developing Critical Thinking Skills: The Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series

Comprehensive Questioning: The Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series

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

 

Functioning in a Less Than Meaningful Workplace

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depressedEmployee

Effectively addressing negative employee interaction requires singling out what truly engages the minds, actions and hearts of individuals. Leaders must identify the factors producing the need in some employees to act negatively and callously toward others. In almost all cases, negative interaction among employees is the result of functioning in a less than meaningful workplace. To stifle interactive negativity, leaders must identify both the factors defining and methods creating a meaningful, reciprocal work environment.

It is important for leaders to understand every employee has a personal set of factors defining a meaningful workplace. When leaders fail to apply practical strategies for making the workplace more reciprocal, with people respectfully and productively working toward a common goal, they can expect continuous negative interaction among employees. This creates havoc that slows productivity and advancement for both the individual work unit and the organization.

How employees define a meaningful work environment determines how they function within their current environment. Some factors are more important than others. For one employee, the top factors may be a desire for a deep sense of purpose, the freedom to be innovative, and the opportunity to build strong relationships in the work setting. Other factors might include ownership in ideas and solutions, an atmosphere that encourages overcoming challenges or a feeling of success within the work unit.

The leadership challenge for reducing and eliminating employee interactive negativity is to reflect on what it is that makes a work environment truly rewarding and fulfilling. Leaders need to create a workplace that keeps its employees busy and productive, but one that also keeps their minds and hearts actively engaged. The only way personal negativity and accompanying actions are displaced is with security, trust, comradery, positive interaction and mutual respect.

Leaders assess their workplace and put into word and action what employees desire to see in a meaningful and rewarding environment. In order to do this, leaders:

Conduct An Environmental Climate Check

Leaders analyze their own negative feelings regarding the workplace. They ask, “Do I often find myself dwelling on the negative aspects of my work and performance and the atmosphere that exists?” If the answer is “yes,” the reasons behind their feelings are a good indicator of why employees feel the same way and negative interactions are taking place.

Taking the time to complete an analysis of the entire work unit atmosphere is the first step in dealing with negative employee interaction. In order to effect positive workplace change, leaders should both ask themselves the following questions and take appropriate actions wherever a “yes” response exists:

  • Is there an unspoken understanding that work should always be first in every employee’s life?
  • Does the organizational culture favor workaholics?
  • Do employees that don’t share this “work first” philosophy feel guilty?
  • Is there undue pressure on employees to make trade-offs with tasks and assignments against time, resources and availability?
  • Do individual assignments have more importance than collaborative efforts, trial-and-error methods and interactive positive communication?
  • Is praise a lower priority than the completion of timelines and tasks?

Seek Out Specific Areas in Which to Focus Your Efforts

Every organizational work unit has room for improvement. The key rests in a leader’s ability to know where to focus his or her efforts for maximum effect. The following are actions proven to transform the work environment in the quickest and most effective way:

  • Finding out what is most important to employees as far as creating a non-threatening, secure and fulfilling work environment.
  • Understanding each employee’s top priorities as they relate to work and themselves personally. This can be the starting point for creating a more meaningful and productive workplace for all.
  • Allowing employees to pause after a major completed task or project in order to gain a sense of closure and to savor their accomplishments.
  • Acknowledging all progress and getting upper management to recognize major milestones and hurdles employees reach and overcome.
  • Making challenges exciting, somewhat demanding, but realistic.
  • Allowing employees to make best use of their talents and to freely use others whenever needed as resources for input, ideas and suggestions.

Track the Fit of Your Employees

Getting to know what fires up your employees is crucial in fostering a rewarding work environment. Identifying the skills and talents they have outside the workplace can help place them into a better fit inside the organization. One of a leader’s responsibilities is to find out what their employees’ interests are, or their sources of motivation and energy. It is vital to talk to each employee about their passions, talents and creative abilities, and then tap into them however and whenever possible.

Negativity permeates an employee’s attitudes when they feel misplaced in their jobs, tasks, assignments and responsibilities. In order to overcome this, leaders assess:

  • Whether the big picture of the organization is thoroughly discussed with employees so that they clearly understand their personal place in it and how they specifically factor into its success.
  • If there are any employees who feel a particular job or assignment “just isn’t right” for them. It is important to find out what employees feel they can take on more capably, then match them with projects, assignments, and duties where they can better achieve success.
  • If there are some employees who feel a clash between their values and goals and those of others in the workplace. When work makes employees feel they need to be a different person in order to “fit in,” a leader can expect negative employee interactions to occur repeatedly.
  • Whether employees are allowed to consistently tap into their strengths and spend a great deal of their assignment time in activities best matched to their interests and talents.

Analyze Your Unit’s Flexibility

Nothing creates more negative interaction among employees than a work environment that remains inflexible to their needs. Leaders need to establish a more meaningful work environment by making certain that flexibility exists for all employees. They need to make sure the corporate rulebook does not overshadow the positive accomplishments taking place within the unit and among its members. Leaders need to consider:

  • Are work unit rules flexible when certain situations arise, or are they rigid to the point where the rulebook is still the ultimate word?
  • Are policies and procedures followed to the letter without allowing employees to question their validity and necessity?
  • In order to accomplish certain things do employees feel they must sidestep rules and hope they don’t get caught?

Addressing and changing areas needing improvement allows leaders to spend more of their time doing that which works to motivate employees and move the organization forward. Strengthening these areas is best accomplished by interacting with every employee, and taking action to build stronger personal relationships and subsequently a more secure, meaningful workplace.

Excerpt: Improving Workplace Interaction: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 16.95 USD

Related:

Interaction is a Necessary Component of a Vibrant Workplace

Leaders Have Three Motivational Tools Available to Them

When Motivating Employees, Expectations Are Everything

Seven Proactive Steps to Take to Deal With a Problem Employee

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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