An important leadership skill during times of turbulence and relentless change is the ability to ask important questions – Questions that shift organisations and if not shift organisations shift the important conversations in organisations. However, the art of asking questions is a rarely used leadership skill and one that needs to be learnt, it’s that important for success in the connection economy, that we’d encourage every leader to spend time every day reflecting on the questions they should be asking rather than the actions they should be taking. Leaders have been taught to tell, taught to command. But in today’s fast paced, complex, volatile, interconnected world hierarchy means nothing. Technology and the flow of information now means that anyone anywhere could have vital information that could mean the difference between success or failure. By telling and not asking you would never know. The free flow of information and the ability to motivate and inspire people to act by asking questions is crucial. Command and control shuts down the conversation, it makes people feel inferior and locks out the view of what they may be seeing and what you may be missing.
Personally the skill of asking important questions has probably been the most important lesson I’ve learnt this year. I have Prof Nick Barker t, one of our associates to thank for that. We were discussing some of the aspects of TIDES (our frameworks on the impact of disruptive forces) that we deliver and we got onto talking about the imprtance of asking questions rather than telling. It was profoundly simple and powerful concept at the same time. It’s not an easy skill to master, but by thinking carefully it’s a skill I aim to master in 2014.
So when I came across Ed Schein’s book titled Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling I immediately downloaded it onto my Kindle. Booz & Co also lists this book as one of its Best Business Books for 2013
Humble Inquiry builds the kinds of positive, trusting, balanced relationships that encourage honest and open interactions in both our professional and personal lives. Schein defines Humble Inquiry as “the fine art of drawing someone out, of asking questions to which you do not know the answer, of building a relationship based on curiosity and interest in the other person.” In this seminal work he explores the concept of humility, looks at how Humble Inquiry differs from other kinds of inquiry, offers examples of Humble Inquiry in action in many different settings, and shows how to overcome the cultural, organizational and psychological barriers that keep us from practicing it This is a major new contribution to how we see human dynamics and relationships, presented in a compact, personal, eminently practical way.