Preschoolers Do This Better Than Most Leaders!
Questions, questions, and more questions! If you’ve spent any time with preschoolers, you know that they are full of questions!
The question preschoolers ask most frequently: “Why?” It’s a short and sweet question that often requires deep thought before responding. Sometimes it’s difficult to know how to articulate “the why” in terms that a preschooler understands. Perhaps that’s part of what makes the many questions so exhausting.
Ever wonder what makes a preschooler so incredibly inquisitive? Curiosity and the desire to learn. Just about everything is new to them.
Around the time children head to school, the perpetual questioning trails off as the “agenda” for learning kicks in combined with a school schedule to follow.
Fast forward and most adults only vaguely remember being curious kids. While juggling life and work, there’s very little time to breathe, and breathing room is exactly what’s needed for curiosity to bloom. Margin is necessary in your life because it…
- Gives you the opportunity to think and dream
- Allows you the time needed to follow up and seek out answers
- Encourages you to play and engage in what you enjoy
- Explore new and interesting experiences
- Enables you to relax – it’s hard to be curious when you’re stressed!
There’s another interesting phenomenon often sets in for leaders when they believe they must have all the answers. That belief has a way of derailing your curiosity.
It’s uncomfortable to not have the answers, but the best leaders are willing to admit “I don’t know” and then ask the questions to help them arrive at a great solution.
Curious leaders are also willing to experiment and be wrong knowing that it’s all a part of the process.
If you’ve gotten out of the habit of asking questions, I encourage you to make an effort to become more curious. There are some very compelling reasons for asking questions because it…
- Builds greater trust
- Demonstrates that you value others
- Leads to better outcomes or solutions
- Removes the pressure of having to know it all
- Enables you to gain valuable insights that you might not discover otherwise.
- Strengthens the relationships
- Gives others a chance to let their strengths shine
- Invites others to be more creative and collaborative
- Requires you to listen more – that’s always a good thing!
- Facilitates safety – that makes for a much better team!
- Encourages ownership – when people are part of the process, they are more committed to the outcome
- Challenges mindsets and ways of doing things in ways that cultivates improvements
Leading is all about influence, not having all the answers. Asking questions opens the door to influence!
When you don’t ask questions, you rely on assumptions, yet your assumptions are clouded by your experiences, personality, thinking preferences, and more! The reality that is you don’t always know. Let me repeat – you don’t always KNOW. You can’t afford to assume.
Want to take your leadership to the next level? Here are a few suggestions around asking questions:
1. Ditch Your Solutions
It takes effort, but letting go of what you think should happen and getting curious – preschooler curious – opens up all sorts of new possibilities.
Resist asking leading questions in hopes of others seeing your solution, because in doing so you will miss out on the chance to gain the fresh perspectives that might lead to a more thoughtful solution.
Ditching your solutions is also an excellent way to access the understanding others have around an issue and to glean new information you might not otherwise ever discover.
2. Ask Open-Ended Questions
If you are genuinely curious, open-ended questions are your friend – questions that can’t be answered by a simple “yes” or “no.” Instead ask questions that begin with “what,” “how,” or “when?”
Beware, while the “why” question is the preschooler’s go to question, asking why has the potential to come across in a way that causes people to become defensive.
Don’t overlook simple questions like “what else?” or make requests such as “tell me more…” Tiny questions that probe, yielding big results.
Closed questions often feel like a cross-examination and do not offer near the insights an open-ended question does.
3. Ask Empowering Questions
What makes a question empowering? Questions that are asked with a positive and respectful tone and encourage the individual asked to go deeper, explore, think more critically, and creatively. Empowering questions convey that you value the person, the team, the project, or the plan.
Avoid asking questions that challenge a person’s success, such as “How come you didn’t complete that task?” A better line of questioning would be “What do you need in order to complete the task on time?” or “How can I help you?”
Your goal as a leader is to unleash that inner super-star lying within your people. Your questions are a significant part of that process, especially when they create clarity, focus, and creativity.
Another valuable perk – asking great questions strengthens your relationships.
4. Ask About Everything!
Lest you think questions are just for getting your people to do what you need them to do, here are some other areas that will benefit for your curious questions:
- Asking others for feedback – How are you doing? Where might you need to improve? If you’re willing to hear it and eager to grow as a leader, this line of questioning is invaluable! Don’t be afraid to share what you’re working on and invite them to help you in that process. It will build trust and make you much more relatable. You may even want to do a 360 evaluation – a process of getting anonymous feedback from those you work with that are over you and at the same level, as well as your direct reports.
- Inquire about plans, processes, projects and what they’ve learned or discovered along the way.
- Ask about the organizational culture, structure, processes, and practices. What’s working? What’s not working? What frustrations are there?
- Explore with your people how their roles or how certain projects relate back to your organization purpose or mission. You can’t highlight your mission too many times!
- Ask about the individual goals of your team members. How might you assist them with those personal goals and ambitions? What do they need from you? Where would they like to be in the next year? Two years? Five years from now? Then, whenever possible, utilize them in ways that will get them closer to their goals. Knowing that you value what’s important to them is motivating!
- Encourage debate, and debate topics from different angles. Ask people to debate it from the perspective they believe in, as well as perspectives they are skeptical of. If done well, it will fortify your team, broaden understanding, and yield superior results!
Want to be a dynamic and influential leader? It starts with carving out space for curiosity so that you are able to be present and ask thoughtful questions. Then listen, really listen!
Preschoolers are pros at asking an extraordinary number of questions, displaying their natural curiosity. It’s crazy that preschoolers possess a skill that so many leaders lack!
Jesus was one of the most influential leaders of all time and He asked many, many questions, and some of them were not easy to answer!
How would your ability to lead and influence expand if you were asking powerful questions?