5 Common Questions Leaders Should Never Ask – Warren Berger – Harvard Business Review

A better approach would be to ask, How can we work together to shore up any weaknesses? That identifies weak links and areas in need of improvement without focusing too much on blame. Why dont you do it this way? This question may seem like a mere suggestion, but when asked by a leader, its truly a leading question a way of imposing your ways on others. (Even worse: When this question is asked after the fact, as in Why didnt you do it this way? Now its also second-guessing.) The leadership expert Mary Jo Asmus with Aspire Collaborative Services says, Asking leading questions such as How about if you do it this way?is just a stealth form of control. She maintains that if a leader has hired well, he/she shouldnt have to control how the work gets done. Better to allow people to figure out their own ideas and approaches, though you can sometimes help them along by asking, How were you thinking of doing it? What do you have in mind? Havent we tried this already? Another, equally bad way of asking this is, Why do you think this would work when it hasnt worked before? Its not that a leader shouldnt raise questions about proposed strategies especially if something similar has been tried previously but the tone is important. Phil Kessler of Vistage International, a leadership group for chief executives, points out that this version of the question comes off as condescending and even defeatist. It seems to suggest that everything has been thought of already, and that because something was tried once and didnt work, it should never be considered again. This fails to recognize that some ideas may have come up short in the past because of bad timing or poor execution, not because the idea itself was wrong. Better to ask, If we tried this now, what would be different this time and how might that change the results?
For the original version including any supplementary images or video, visit http://blogs.hbr.org/2014/07/5-common-questions-leaders-should-never-ask/

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