Leadership For The Future


Are you asking the right questions?

I recently re-read Nancy Kline’s book “Time to Think”. Her principal theme is that in order to create a “thinking environment” we need ten components; attention, incisive questions, equality, appreciation, ease, encouragement, feelings, information, place and diversity. This is a tall order but the one that resonated with me most was about asking incisive questions. So what is an incisive question? It’s one that allows you to lay aside prejudices or assumptions that prevent you taking action and frees your thinking so that you know what to say or do in a particular situation.

For example, you want to discuss an idea with your bosses, but you are afraid they may laugh at you or think that you haven’t thought it through sufficiently. Your assumption might be that they don’t think you’re bright or logical enough so you put off the opportunity to speak to them. An incisive question in this case might be “If you knew that your bosses thought you were intelligent and logical how would you present your idea to them?”

These types of questions are particularly useful for the “manager as coach”. By taking away assumptions it allows the person being coached to focus more clearly on the task in hand.

In my experience the question that organisations tend to consider most frequently in their strategic planning cycle is “What is our USP (unique selling point)?” when a better question might be “If we didn’t exist who would miss us – and why?” followed by “Would anyone invent us?” and, if the answer is “yes”, “What might they do differently?”

So if I were to ask you about your organisation and what incisive question you would ask to change a limiting belief about an area you are trying to change or a problem you are trying to solve what would it be . . .?