In the second section of “Why Are Questions So Important?” – chapter 1 of Good Leaders Ask Great Questions – John quotes management expert Peter Drucker as saying “My greatest strength as a consultant is to be ignorant and ask a few questions.” John goes on to say that “successful leaders relentlessly ask questions and have an incurable desire to pick the brains of the people they meet.”
In titling this section “Questions Unlock and Open Doors That Otherwise Remain Closed,” John reminds me of how frequently the best leaders I’ve had the chance to be around make it a priority to ask questions every chance they get. As I think about some of the examples I’ve been closest to, I believe many of these questions were completely based on their genuine interest in me (or whoever they were talking with). However, I’m also not so naive that I miss the real intention; TO LEARN ABOUT THAT PERSON! In the process of learning about the person the leader was interacting with, they would certainly gain other valuable insight. But this genuine interest would also earn some degree of respect from that person… And an effective leader rarely expects to receive that kind of respect without having earned from that person. (That’s the difference between leading from a position and leading with influence, but I’ll save that for another time…)
So here’s where I have to push back a bit… I think I understand the message Drucker was trying to send in his statement, but I believe it misrepresents the idea of asking questions. The reference to asking questions out of ignorance makes me think of a kid hammering their parent with an exponential version of a 5-WHY analysis; and just the normal 5-WHY is painful enough! From everything I’ve heard John teach about asking questions, I don’t believe it has ANYTHING to do with ignorance. I’ve seen him be very intentional about the questions he asks. Some of this is to learn about a specific topic and some is designed to learn about the person.
Dr. Rohm based a significant amount of the Personality Insights curriculum around a simple, yet extremely effective, method of asking questions to help understand some of the most important things you will ever need to know about someone: what kind of language do you need to use for them to understand you? No, I’m not talking about English, Spanish, or French… But honestly, speaking in the wrong style could be just as ineffective! Piecing Together Your People Puzzles is designed to provide a framework for learning this basic information and helping you put it into practice immediately. How often have you had a chance to immediately apply something you’ve heard about in a workshop? And how often has it been backed by an unconditional guarantee?
I look forward to seeing you soon,