January 18, 2021

One of the key lessons I have learned along my leadership journey is that unvalidated assumptions are kryptonite to effective leadership. Although I have been in a leadership position for many years, the importance of asking questions of those around me has been magnified by the many outside factors influencing businesses these days.

The ongoing COVID crisis, remote offices, international interdependency and competition, more diverse workforces, changing regulations, disruption frequency, and the speed and access to data, along with the tools to analyze said data and perform predictive analytics, have all led to a rapidly evolving business environment.

Leaders aren’t required to have all the answers to these changes, but they do need to be great at asking their teams the right questions in order to gather information and insights. Purpose driven, rigorous curiosity can help you serve and, thus, lead others, including your teams, donors, clients, collaborators, regulators, family members, and boards.

Where to Begin with Questioning

The questions you ask should be driven by the underlying purpose for which there is a need for answers.

For instance, if your purpose is to adapt to the changing needs of your people in the current environment, you might ask questions like:

  • Has COVID opened any opportunities, or created any new challenges, for our staff?
  • Is there an opportunity to provide new or adapted services for them?
  • What do our remote workers need to feel engaged and part of the team?
  • What are the needs of the individuals on our team?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of the individuals on our team as they relate to areas where we need to adapt?

If your purpose is to adapt to the changing needs of your customers, donors, or people you serve, you might ask questions like:

  • How do international developments impact our business?
  • What could disrupt our business further?
  • Can we/should we disrupt our own business?
  • In this environment, is there more of a need for our clients or our donors to engage with us electronically?
  • How are people using our website? What does that tell us about their service priorities?

There are Questions, then There are the Right Questions

The key to surviving and thriving is to ask the right questions. Doing so will enable you to build the data set best suited to understanding your donors, your customers, your prospects, or your business/organization, as well as the problems you are trying to solve.

Yet, as important as data analytics and data-driven decision-making are to effective leaders today, the team development and relationship benefits of leading through curiosity are even more important. Confiding in your people and asking for their advice and input will earn their respect and help build a strong, cohesive organization prepared to weather the times. If you are not combining comprehensive data analytics with an ongoing curiosity, you will be quickly outpaced by your competition. Both are necessary to build a thriving organization.

I will end with a question myself. What do you think it would mean to your team and your organization if you were known as someone who leads through curiosity?

This article is part of the Learning, Adapting, and Growing: Leadership Perspectives series, which explores the role of leadership from a diverse array of perspectives. Each article is written by a Clark Nuber leader who shares their ideas on the unique challenges and opportunities they have experienced, and the lessons they’ve learned along the way.

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