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Solve Big Problems - Start With NO Answers

Updated: Nov 18, 2020

To engage your employees and make them feel valued, the number one thing you can do is listen. That doesn’t mean ask a question then have the answer in your head, but to ask a question, be present, and truly listen. Here are some practical strategies we put together after listening to Hal Gregersen, Executive Director of the MIT Leadership Center who says “The real questions are ones where it causes step back, think twice.”

1. Be Uncomfortable - As a leader, you expect yourself to have all of the answers, when in fact, great leaders ask critical questions. So when you have a problem to solve, get your team together, identify the problem, get specifics and drill down to exactly what needs to be solved. Then right when everyone looks to you for the answers…

2. Ask More Questions - Even if you have the answer, write it down in the margin of your notes and ask questions, like “What if this were to happen?” “Why couldn’t we try something different?” “How might this work?” “What are your thoughts on?” “What’s working?” “What’s not working.” Asking more probing questions, gets engagement from your team members and may net a better idea than what you had written in your notes.

3. Create a Culture of Questioning Things - Think of the 5-year-old who is constantly asking “Why?” What if you had your entire team always asking that pesky “Why?” A way to do this is using Gregersen’s Question Burst. You can use it with individuals, pairs or groups. Set a timer for 4 minutes and see how many questions you can come up with to tackle a problem. It’s fun, so try it!

4. Celebrate Being Wrong - After interviewing 200 successful business people, Gregersen found that they put themselves in conditions where they were wrong. “When most of us are wrong and uncomfortable, our instinct is to run from it, but these folks embraced it...the question emerged that unlocked the doors that otherwise weren’t there.”

The next time you're walking the dog, working out, or commuting to work, listen to Hal's conversation with Pete at How to Be Awesome At Your Job.

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