Category Archives: #ThursdayThought
Over the years I’ve seen many people talk about a conversation they’ve had where they have reached an impasse.
Whether it was selling an idea, gaining business, or trying to gather intel they would seem frustrated with the final answer(s) by the person they were talking to.
Invariably they walk away with “so-and-so is doing this,” or they were standing pat on an earlier decision, or “they are just not ready to listen.”
And the counter I’ve coached them is “Did you ask them ‘Why?'”.
When someone is asked why, it gives the power to the questioner and not the person giving the answer. It causes them to give an explanation and reveal more information as to their mindset.
Sometimes the person I’m teaching this to says “Yes, and they said they would rather do <other action>.”
To which I say “Did you ask them ‘How come?’ “
This creates some thinking on the person asking the questions to which I reveal the process of the alternating asking “Why?” and “How Come?”.
Each question peels away another layer of information that the person being asked might be hiding behind, or neglecting details, or being non-committal.
It opens up the talking and gets the other person starting to reveal their intentions so the questioner can get to the heart of the matter.
Whether using this to ask employees about an HR issue, in a sales pitch, or in parenting or counselling, it’s simply an effective way to keep drilling down to where the real intent lies.
Two simple questions anyone can ask that can be non-confrontational and open conversation to get results.
You hear it from bosses and parents many times.
“Now make sure we behave ourselves when (regional leadership)/(grandparents or minister) comes to visit us.”
“After all, we need to look good in front of them.”
When anyone is worried more about looking good for the sake of optics, rather than doing what’s good and right as a matter of practice – there raises a red flag that those in authority aren’t truly being the example leadership they should be.
Whether it’s fudging the numbers on reports, checking the boxes to ensure tasks are done, or creating the rehearsed “dog and pony show” to stay in someone’s good graces, the failure of leadership to develop their people to create the right patterns of thinking and behavior to do what should be done reveals the leader’s true heart.
Optics are just a cheap way to be a leader. The great leaders ensure that their people are solid performers.
Great leaders don’t ask their people to “stay in their lane” or be scarce when others come to check on them. They encourage honest conversations and want to place their people front and center to prove how great their people are. This is the antithesis of leaders who want to do all the talking to control the situation so they look good.
The optics problem always reveals a leader or a broader organizational culture that allows this type of leadership mindset to exist. It fosters the place-holding of a leader who doesn’t want to look bad instead of generating a dynamic of leaders who excel at developing great people and great systems.
Optics aren’t everything, but they reveal more than the facade they create.
Earlier this week, Chicago White Sox manager Tony Larussa – the Hall of Fame Manager from the Oakland A’s and St. Louis Cardinals – said that because one of his younger (and talented) players failed to honor the “unwritten rules” of the game by swinging on a 3-0 pitch in a lopsided game and hitting a home run, that player would be disciplined.
As such Larussa has been the subject of much scorn in news and social outlets.
In a sport that has been losing fans steadily over the years and at a crossroads of making the game accessible for fans and players, this old-school style of thinking is symptomatic of other old-school thinking in every industry.
Times change. Technology changes. Employee and customer needs change. So should methods and leadership styles.
Because employees and customers have more free agency than ever before to walk away from poor experiences or toxic leadership, outdated polices or unwritten (or unforgiving) rules, it creates an urgency for leadership to think differently than ever before.
And if we truly think differently, it will naturally come out in our actions. Just thinking it – and saying that you do – without the actions to verify your words is hollow leadership.
The rising stars of leadership know this intrinsically. As a result of their thinking and acting in newer and next level ways, they will be the builders of the next brands, win the market share, and supplant stodgy thinking because of their ability to understand the meta of what is needed in the marketplace. Not what is used to be.
How are we approaching our leadership thinking today, and working it into true actions that reveal a true heart for change that matters to others, and not our sacred ideals?