Monthly Archives: April 2015

Leadership & Strategic Thinking —- The Power of Clarifying Questions!

A Leadership Problem: More than 75% of people make decisions before they thoroughly understand the issue that needs to be addressed!

Leadership & Strategic Thinking —- The Power of Clarifying Questions!

               George, the executive in charge of R&D for a leading consumer products company, was recently presenting an update to the senior leadership team on the progress in the development of a unique new product. He quickly became frustrated by the questions he was being asked. How so?

He was only on the first page of a 6-page presentation; and, he was already 45 minutes into his 1 hour time slot. What was happening here? People were asking the wrong questions first. The executives were jumping into content questions before they had asked clarifying questions. Content questions were framed as such: “Why? Have you reached out to …?” and “Did you consider?” Can you imagine how frustrated George was, or what opportunity could have been missed?

The solution?

We have an important tool we always employ when we are facilitating a strategy planning session. It seems so obvious, but I don’t see it used in practice very often. The simple request to ask for clarifying questions before content questions. It is not easy to do at first, but it is a behavior that can be learned by all. The trick is to be able to draw the distinction between the two. A clarifying question begins with — “What do you mean by this?,” “Can you clarify something for me?” etc…

We have found that clarifying questions asked early and throughout a presentation can often address content questions in a better way. One thing to keep in mind — people will only follow this rule if they know they will have a chance to weigh in at a point in time. That can be either at a natural break in the presentation or at the conclusion of a short one. Also, try using a Parking Lot Chart to collect content questions asked along the way. This will help ensure people know you are going to address the important content questions at an appropriate point in time.

 

Source: GlobalEdg Research 2014

Strategic Thinking: Do the Opposite! Asking the right questions is what really drives change in an organization.

In the 1990’s one of the highest rated program in the U.S. was Seinfeld. The premise of this program was Jerry Seinfeld and his friends going through everyday life, talking about situations that many of us can relate to.  The personalities of the offbeat characters who make up Jerry’s social circle contribute to the fun. In one classic episode entitled The Opposite, Jerry’s theory that every instinct his friend George has is wrong. George decides to try the opposite, and that proves successful – finds a girlfriend, gets a great job and a nice apartment to live in — all not probable if he had followed his original instinct.  Obvious the sitcom does not always portray real life, but it I entertaining to think about.

So many times we focus on the answers to our questions and we miss the importance of asking the right questions.  If you approach that completely OPPOSITE – flipping the old way of thinking upside down — finding the right questions will definitely lead you to the right solution. Strategic thinking helps drive change in an organization only when the right questions are addressed.  Over the years, we have worked to identify which questions are most relevant.  Whether it is working with a large fortune 500 company or a small non-profit, we have seen the power of asking the RIGHT questions. Think about any situation you have been in …. How many time have you and your teammates jumped to solutions?  Have you ever heard the old saying “we have a solution looking for a problem”? If you approach that completely opposite – flipping the old way of thinking upside down — finding the right questions will definitely lead you to the right solution. Our Strategic Thinking Framework just does that, my colleague Jack Mastrianni and I have worked years to perfect this.  We use an hourglass to graphically display the questions. Next—Why the Hourglass –stay Tuned!  see the hourglass at www.globaledg.com