Oftentimes, being a leader is not about having all the answers; it is about asking the right questions.
This is especially important to remember as we face situations that are unprecedented. It should give leaders comfort to know that you do not need to have all the answers. In fact, given that it is all new territory, it is pretty certain that you will not.
And that is okay.
What you do need to be able to do is ask the right questions.
There is a tried and true formula for doing that, and it is one most of us were taught in elementary English class. You simply ask six questions.
1. WHAT is the problem?
Hint: It is not the first thing that comes to mind.
When something goes wrong, the first thing you notice is usually a symptom and not the core problem.
“The team is behind schedule.”
“We lost another customer.”
“This product is defective.”
2. WHY did it happen?
Hint: It may not be what you think.
What often happens? We address the symptom – push the team harder to reach deadlines, find more customers, or create more products.
These are all well and good, but they do not prevent the problem from recurring.
This is why we test and ask questions – to get to the root cause of the problem, which can then be addressed.
The root causes may be:
- The team is overloaded.
- The customer service team needs guidance.
- Quality control processes need to be developed.
If, as a leader, you are having to address the same concerns repeatedly, you have not fully addressed the problem.
3. WHO is responsible?
Hint: Prepare for the ouch.
We have all heard the statement: “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” It is trite because it is true.
Ultimately, if there is a problem in your organization, you own it. This sounds bad, but it actually is a good thing, because if you own it, you can find a way to fix it.
4. WHEN will it be addressed?
Hint: “Someday” is not the answer to this question.
It is interesting how, when something is assigned a specific date and time for completion, we mentally and physically reserve space for it to be done.
You may have to adjust timelines due to outside forces, but just having a defined time focus starts the framework for realization of the goal.
5. WHERE are the resources you will need?
Hint: They are out there!
What may seem impossible can become possible if you just break it down into smaller pieces and then find resources to address those pieces. Resources can be people, information, or tools – or a combination of the three. This is the power of teamwork.
Where you don’t have the resources needed, reach across the aisle to those who have the necessary strengths, skills, and tools to do what needs to be done.
6. HOW will you resolve the issue?
Hint: It may be the opposite of what you are thinking.
Depending on your strengths style, you will react in certain ways in a given situation. D-wired leaders will take immediate action; I-wired leaders will quickly jump to a new task; S-wired leaders will seek to create order; and C-wired leaders will stop and think.
What is the correct answer?
All of the above.
When there is an issue to be resolved, you need all of the above to work together like four-part harmony. You need to move fast, be agile, operate in an orderly fashion, and think clearly.
Where many leaders make a mistake is in doing what they do best without engaging the full team to add the best of themselves to the resolution. Not including your team could make matters worse instead of better. Allow your team to counterbalance your natural inclinations, and you could resolve the issue much faster – and in such a way that it doesn’t happen again.
Are you asking the right questions?
For more resources on learning, working, and communicating in your strengths zone and through crisis, click here to learn about the Maxwell Method of Communications Impact Report.
As the CEO of Strength Leader Development, Deb Ingino is a highly sought-after international executive mentor, coach, trainer and speaker. Deb is well versed in global business operations and helps business leaders and their teams to discover and leverage their strengths, so they can create highly collaborative teams that deliver great results. With a refreshingly direct style, Deb helps leaders and their teams to deliver profitable results. Connect with Deb to learn more about her mentorship and coaching programs to equip you with advanced strategies to elevate your results.