Make Questions the Answer

Want to know a top high-impact change leaders can make as they look to create impact with their teams or in the company they’ve founded?

The answer often takes people by surprise. For some it feels too simple. For others, it challenges their perception of what “leadership” means. Because it’s not about having the answers.

Yet leaders who make this change elicit deeper intellectual and emotional engagement from their teams. They become more effective at building trust, and may even have an edge on retention. Best of all, they gather deep information from different perspectives and create more context for decision-making.

Ready to hear how they do it?

By asking questions. Lots of open, generative questions.

How did that hit you? Were you skeptical when you read it? Doubtful, or unimpressed?

Or did something about it ring true?

See, our brains respond very differently to questions than they do to informative input. When we’re “told,” our brain receives information and simply finds a place to file it, maybe mapping it to related experiences or thoughts. Or maybe not.

Depending on what we’re told, and how we’re told it, we often even filter the information through emotional screens or defense mechanisms, without even meaning to. Or we may do it intentionally if the information strikes the wrong chord.

Questions, on the other hand, ignite unique processes within the brain. When we’re “asked,” the inquiry can travel through a range of processing areas, effectively “gathering” stored information and activating multiple queries for both facts and context.

When asked, our brains tune in. We scan memory and sensory centers for relevant information, pulling things out of storage and creating connections between previously unconnected data points on the fly.

One of the most important roles of leaders today is simply getting employees to think: to use their unique experiences and perspectives to help guide better decisions for the company. Unlike bygone “command and control” modes where one person directed the decisions and actions of underlings, today’s leader succeeds by encouraging employees to make a difference: to use their strengths to the benefit of the company.

Leaders who favor questions over answers do this. They elevate personal engagement and contribution from their team members.

They deepen the sense of “care” their teams feel at work – after all, answering questions activates memory and emotional centers that often draw from important personal experiences, mapping those thoughts to the new work thoughts in meaningful ways.

And they gain the advantage of expanding their own perspectives by seeing how different minds respond to business challenges and opportunities, igniting a virtuous cycle that expands understanding across the organization.

Ready to put questions to work for you? The Power of Generative Questions is a 90-minute workshop designed to elevate curiosity and build collaboration across your team. Or let’s work 1:1 to elevate your leadership impact as you build trust, engagement, and better knowledge through the brain-aware questions that help your team rise to its best.

About Ellen Leanse

Coach, catalyst, believer in the audacious. Working every day to align more fully with purpose; loving what happens as people I work with align with theirs. Road-tested entrepreneur, Maker, author. Mom of three sons. Motto: "Think different."

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