Innovation requires curiosity. Curiosity involves inquiry. Inquiry uses questions – The Language of an Innovative Leader. When we as leaders stop asking questions because we think we are the experts, we stifle creativity and innovation.
Does being an innovative leader matter? If you are a leader that influences the results of a company, and are responsible for growth and a competitive advantage, then innovation is key to your success. Especially in this case, but even to be a leader others will follow – don’t focus on being in charge, being right, being the smartest in the room, or having all the answers. It is okay to ask questions – especially as a leader. It is not a sign of weakness as a leader; it is a sign of strength.
When you ask questions, it forces you to listen to other’s ideas, suggestions, or just who they are as a person and a member of your organization. When you actively listen to employees, peers, and direct reports, they feel understood, and that they matter to the decisions you may make, the new project you are considering, etc. When people feel included, heard and part of the process, their own satisfaction and engagement with their job increases. Employee engagement has a direct impact on productivity, which directly impacts the bottom line.
If you don’t ask questions about what people really think, you will make assumptions and fill in the blanks – and so will they. If assumptions are wrong – it can lead to many things going wrong including;
- Projects may fail
- Tasks are overlooked or missed
- Customers are affected
- Employees are unhappy and may dis-engage
- There is no clear communication
Here are just a few ideas adapted from Peter Senge’s work to use when changing from advocacy (selling and telling) to inquiry (asking questions).
- Explore, listen and offer your own views in an open way. Example: “Have you considered…….?”
- Raise your concerns and state what is leading you to have them. Example: “I have a hard time seeing that, because of this reasoning…. What am I missing?”
- Look for information that will help people move forward. Example: “What do we think is true, but have no data for yet?”
- Consider each person’s perspective as a piece of a larger puzzle. Example: “Are we starting from two very different sets of assumptions? Where do they come from?”
When you ask questions it opens the door for two-way communication; a big boost to transparency, job satisfaction and innovative results. If you think you are an expert and advocate your position – that is only one-way communication and misses so many opportunities for innovation. If you don’t ask questions or you dismiss others’ ideas before you even hear what they are, it will shut down creativity and innovation.
It’s your turn. How do you think shifting to inquiry communication will impact your team and business relationships?
Related Post: Is your leader an effective communicator? They will say YES!
Resource: If you want to hone your skills to be an innovative communicator, contact us for a free consultation