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Questions That Lead to Results

| November 6, 2012

by Jim Bruce

Today’s Tuesday Reading is “Questions That Lead to Results”.  This article comes from the Wharton Leadership Digest’s Nano Tools for Leaders and was contributed by Marilee Adams, President and founder of the Inquiry Institute and author of ”Change Your Questions, Change Your Life.“

The goal of this Nano Tool is to change your and your team’s mindset from being “stuck” to finding possibilities and solutions.

Adams notes that our mindsets are determined by the questions we ask:  ”Learner Questions“ which are open-minded, curious, and creative or ”Judger Questions“ which focus on the problems rather than solutions and often lead to defensive reactions and inertia.

It’s natural to ask both Learner and Judger Questions.  Leaders who can effectively distinguish between the two and cultivate a Learner’s mindset can improve the performance, productivity, and morale of their teams and organizations.  It will also increase their individual success as a leader.

This means asking more Learner Questions such as

   •  What are the facts?

   •  What am I assuming?

   •  How can I help?

   •  What’s possible?

and not Judger Questions such as

   •  Who’s to blame?

   •  How can I prove I’m right?

   •  How do I protect my turf?

   •  Why bother?

Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robertt Sulton of Stanford point out that there’s often a gap between what we know – that asking Learner Questions are crucially important – and what we do – too often asking Judger Questions.  Often the Judger Questions just come out:  it’s very difficult to make that change.

Yet, research shows that it is a worth the effort.  Teams that operate with a Learner mindset are more productive, motivated, and engaged.

Adams proposes three action steps to help each of us move to a Learner mindset:

1.  Work on your own mindset first.  Are you focusing on asking Learner Questions?  To help you, take the time to create Learner Questions that focus attention on achieving your goals.

2.  Elevate the quality of your meetings.  For meetings you lead or attend, carefully prepare, including developing a set of Learner Questions designed to help move your agenda forward.

3.  Boost your team’s energy, engagement, and productivity.  Pay attention to the questions your team members ask and explore their impact.  Help the team learn to ask Learner Questions.  As you do this, be careful that you consistently model the Learner behaviors yourself and acknowledge your team as they begin to make the shift.

Now is the time for you to take a hard look at the questions you ask and take steps to develop a Learner mindset.  Perhaps you can make it a priority for work this week.


.  .  .  .  .    jim