What you ask reveals what you care about.
Picture this. On the way to your daughter’s basketball game you tell her what matters most is perseverance and teamwork. On the way home you only ask her how many points she scored. What does she believe matters most?
During change (i.e. always), a leaders one-word job description is attention. We direct people’s attention towards vision. We do more than get attention, we gather it.
Attention that is un-attended to usually resembles a flock of chickens (noisy, distracted, uncoordinated). We want it looking like a school of fish (unified, fast, purposeful). We start gathering with the questions we ask.
What to ask (and when to ask it)
You’ve been in a meeting where the wrong question distracted or derailed everybody. Maybe you’re the one who asked it. Getting attention starts with being prepared to ask the right question. These three questions produce more focus, better attention, and increased momentum.
1: Ask them to report weekly on one important number.
People want to play a meaningful role in a significant story. You can help them identify how they contribute. Everybody needs one number they are responsible for that moves the vision forward.
Chris McChesney calls this a lead measure. I’ll talk more about identifying (and sticking to) lead measures next week.
Ask about this in team meetings. Accountability and celebration are better as a team than 1:1. Asking about this in a team shows everybody you believe they can help move this vision forward.
2: “What’s in the way of ____?”
If we only ask “how is it going?” we may subtly communicate that we hope the answer is “great!” …so we can move on. If your teams are working on the most important problems, there are things in their way. Asking this question keeps attention on what’s most important.
Answering this in team meetings may feel vulnerable, but it’s an opportunity to build trust and solve problems collaboratively. Lead the way by going first.
3: How can I help? These are the four most powerful words for any relationship. This is also not a rhetorical question: You should expect your teams to be bringing you work. You want teams that are so hungry to tackle this vision that they are banging on your door asking for you to remove obstacles, introduce connections, make decisions (etc).
While you should ask this in your team meetings, follow-up about it 1;1. You’ll show your offer to help is sincere and you care about what they are working on.
Questions reveal what’s important to you. Ask questions that empower people around you to move the vision forward.
Next week: How to build a team scoreboard that they actually use. Subscribe here and I’ll send it directly to your inbox.
Do you have another question that helps move vision forward? I’d love to hear about it. Contact me here.