I'm in the midst of re-reading A More Beautiful Question by Warren Berger to start 2021. The book highlights how questions can ignite innovation. If 2020 taught us anything, it's that disruption requires adaptation and innovation to succeed. As we look to the new year, the importance of asking and leading with questions will be critical to how companies achieve success in 2021.
Now, I have A LOT of go-to questions I use for a variety of situations and needs. Last year, I put a heavy emphasis on asking "why?" to gain a stronger understanding and get at the heart of any matter. Now, I am honing in on my #1 question managers should be asking in 2021:
What would you recommend?
Simple, yet powerful. Managers are often asked their opinion or to give an answer or direction - which is ultimately needed. It can be exhausting to be relied upon to answer what can stack up to be so many questions. Common interaction:
Employee: "There is an issue. How should we approach it?" Manager: "Here's how we should approach it..."
Plenty of managers default into this responsive approach. I've done it before. It's easier. It's faster. The manager pulls from their own understanding and experiences and directs the employee what to do. Issue gets resolved...for the time being. Employees then rely on managers for answers to future questions.
This just isn't how those interactions should take place.
Some of the best managers wait to give their input until they've asked what their staff recommend. I (thankfully) learned this early in my management career. So, what can this question accomplish?
Diversity - bringing a variety of perspectives to help achieve goals or overcome obstacles can be accomplished by asking this question.
Inclusivity - the question brings others into the approach and solution. It gives people an important voice.
Skill building - by challenging staff to answer this question, you'll help them build critical and creative thinking skills. This will better equip them to problem solve any situation they may encounter.
The good news is, everyone doesn't have to wait for the perceived leader or manager to ask this question. Coming prepared having already thought through this question and taking the initiative to present recommendations will pay dividends in career growth and development. They hired you, so your opinion matters.
Let me know what question you'll focus on in 2021!