Flipping through an old notebook I came across these questions:
- What will you make better in the world through your leadership?
- What is the highest purpose you can imagine for your leadership?
We think we are who we are, but we are constantly evolving. The questions we ask and answer ultimately determine who we become.
If you could change anything about the way meetings are structured in your organization, what would it be?
Most meeting agendas revolve around topics to cover. Meeting leaders generally follow the easiest possible format: name the topic, talk about it or ask someone else to talk about it, see what kind of conversation ensues.
An alternate approach which can be far more powerful is to structure your meeting agenda around questions to ask rather than points to make.
This agenda requires a bit more preparation. Quality questions can take a little thought to create. It can take an act of willpower to resist starting the discussion with your own views and instead invite others to share their thoughts.
The question agenda invites engagement, participation, thoughtfulness, creativity, problem solving.
We are all afraid to ask questions. We like to feel knowledgable and respected. So we pretend in order to shield our ignorance and avoid mockery and rejection.
- Who is that person you just mentioned that sounds like someone famous I should know, but truthfully have no idea about?
- What does that word mean?
- What is this food on the restaurant menu?
- What was the Battle of the Bulge?
- How do I get ahead in this crazy rat race?
- Would you be willing, senior executive or rich uncle or idol of mine, to give me some advice?
- Can someone please explain NAFTA and the IMF to me?
- Are you open to feedback?
- Can you please give me some honest feedback?
- When will I outgrow my insecurities?
- What have I done to contribute to this problem?
Yet remarkably, it is the questioner who usually makes out best in the end. While the one who hides behind a veil of confidence dooms himself to less knowledge, less respect, more mockery and more rejection.
As Jerry Seinfeld once put it, “People! They’re the worst.”
If people were just more reasonable, smarter, more understanding, more attentive to my obviously correct view of the world and my perfectly reasonable needs, we’d all get along just fine.
Sound good so far?
One of the great challenges in dealing with frustrations with other people is not to help them see your perspective. Rather, the great challenge is for you to explore and fully understand what challenge you are creating for them.
Try these questions:
- How am I contributing to this problem?
- What do I do that most frustrates you?
- (And an old standby) What’s more important here, building this relationship or being right?
How many times must you hear a fact before you remember it for good?
How many times must you practice a behavior before it is your automatic response?
How many times must you learn something before you’ve really learned it?
I told my client I wanted him to reread the book I had asked him to read a month before. Why? Because he hadn’t learned it. Why hadn’t he learned it? Was it because he was dimwitted? Of course not. He’s a very bright guy.
When we read we learn momentarily. Once we finish a book we quickly unlearn what we read. When we reread and reread and reread again, then true learning begins.
Religion gets this, telling us to reread the same book every year. I think that’s a great idea. We should all pick at least one book to reread every year. This year I’m picking The Essential Gandhi.
What book would you choose?
Someone told me he wanted to stop being a micromanager. Who wouldn’t? But I find most people have a much harder time eliminating an old behavior when they don’t have a new replacement behavior.
So we defined the replacement behaviors as being a Macro Manager. Micro management can be broken down into three areas: asking, telling, doing.
Micromanagers ask you for too much detail information and focus primarily on the past. The Macro Manager asks more about results and the future.
Micromanagers tell you your goals, the answers to your questions, and how to do your job. The Macro Manager tells you to come up with recommendations and ideas before offering his/her own.
Micromanagers do work that could be done by their team, sometimes even taking work back that was already (temporarily) delegated. Macro Managers do delegation so that they have the time to think strategically, create opportunity for team members, coach and support.
It’s time for a whole lot of managers out there to get Macro.
Ah, New Year’s. Time for reflection. Should we eat, drink, or smoke less? Should we exercise, meditate, and appreciate more? In order to decide what resolutions we should make, we should start out by asking ourselves the right questions.
- What is the most fun you had in 2011?
- What is the best thing you achieved in 2011?
- Whose life did you touch in a meaningful way in 2011?
- What is the best gift you gave in 2011?
- What did you do that reduced your stress in 2011?
Have a wonderful and safe New Year’s holiday. And in 2012 be good and be well.