As each day passes more and more companies uphold the belief that people are the real key to achieving results. A belief which corroborates the decisive role that leadership plays in the achievement of business success.
If we get down to the truth of the matter, people have always been the focus of leadership…but that leadership has been one impervious to new approaches, a leadership designed to protect the modus operandi and the established status quo, where the centralisation of information has reigned, sustained by strict procedures that ultimately constrict decision making… and still…results were obtained ‘from people’
But now, getting results from people is not enough. The changes that we have experienced in the business world in the last few years clearly demonstrate that we are living in times of growing complexity, with a high component of uncertainty which demands management skills capable of dealing with many more variables than ever before. In short, now is the moment to consider a leadership model where results are not obtained ‘from’ people but ‘through’ people – the use of the different preposition is significant.
As we face market conditions that demand more and better involvement, collaboration, agility, creativity, self-leadership, flexibility and adaptability, it is imperative that we reflect on what exactly a leader can do to improve business results not from, but through people.
And so, perhaps the time has come for us to abandon our predilection for offering ‘correct’ answers, and to instead, strengthen our capacity to formulate appropriate questions within the context of conducting conversations of real value.
Asking vs Answering… Listen vs Monopolising the conversation. A major challenge for the large majority of directors, managers and professionals in general… who have it in their power to adjust their leadership style by developing the art of conversation and, of course, the art of asking questions…
1.- What can I do for you?
To lead is to put oneself at the service of another. Apart from some exceptions, this has never been an habitual practice for many leaders, but right now, one of the key principles for leading, is to ask what our team requires of us and how we can help them, as opposed to only imagining what our team requires of us,
2.- What objectives do you want to achieve?
In contrast to the traditional model in which the leader decides what should be achieved, asking what objectives and challenges the other wishes to set him/herself is a valuable practice if we want to encourage total involvement. Real commitment is born when we ourselves decide what we want to achieve, rather than being forced to achieve something that has been decided by another.
3.- Why are you doing that?
In other words, invite the other to reflect on the purpose of the work they are about to do… Obtaining results through people requires that these people are aware of the rationale behind what they are about to do, that they search for the sense and logic of their actions, tasks and responsibilities
4.- What resources do you have and what do you need to achieve your objective?
Asking about where we are now and what is lacking allows us to identify those resources that are readily available to us and those that we require to be able to achieve our objectives. How many times have we been unable to complete something simply because we have been unaware of what is needed for its completion?
In short, allowing our colleagues to outline and reflect on alternative ways of completing a task demonstrates an intelligent approach; telling them how they should do it, to some extent merely satisfies our ego.
6.- What can you gain and what can you lose?
Asking about the benefits and costs associated with any decision or action allows us to see the related risks of doing or not doing it… Identifying pros and cons is an essential exercise if we wish to develop our muscles of autonomy and the ability to make decisons. Self leadership develops as we become accostomed to thinking in terms of costs and benefits.
7.- Who do you know in your network that can help us?
As connected professionals we provide value to our network via the knowledge that we contribute to that network. Leading is not about encouraging one to aspire to impossible missions, it is about exploring our network and the possibilities therein contained for the attainment of results.
8.- In which areas do you complement others and how do they complement you?
Asking about how we impact our environment helps us to develop our self knowledge… asking about how others complement others sets downs the foundations of a model based on collaboration… a crucial element for achieving results through people in complex, uncertain and volatile settings.
9.- What do you need to do to get there?
Knowing what we want to achieve, for what reason, which resources we currently have at our disposal, and the support that we need, allows us to get at the information that is necessary to devise a plan of action… let’s not forget, leading is above all, about having conversations which strengthen the propensity to act.
10.- How do you feel?
People are emotions and emotions are the fuel that gets us moving. To lead therefore is to manage emotions and to allow those emotions to transform themselves into action, given that the only possible means of attaining results is through people… and logically through their emotions.
Purpose, benefits, support, costs, emotions, self-leadership, alternatives, innovation, resources… and of course action are only some of the ingredients that allow us to attain and improve results through people (and not from them) in a context that urgently requires that each and everyone in the organisation discovers and deploys to the máximum their capabilities and potential for action.
On the other hand, we should not forget that in many instances leading also involves giving answers and offering advice, as people do at times need guidance and orientation in order to improve their performance.
Our current environment is asking us to readdress the prevailing leadership model; it is an environment that necessitates the development of professionals with honed decision making and evaluation skills, who can operate with greater autonomy and flexibility, who are oriented towards collaboration and who successfully manage their commitments… behavioural characteristics that appear and flourish, obviously when we lead by building conversations that are of value and naturally, when we work on and practice the art of asking powerful, appropriate questions…
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