When David took on his new leadership role he noticed that everyone turned up late for meetings and no-one did what they said they would do. His leadership team were not clear about the purpose of the group. It was no surprise that they were at risk of imploding because of poor performance. He had been brought in because of his successful track record as the ‘turn around guy.’
However, he did not arrive with all the answers. Instead, he asked a lot of questions. He asked why were they not meeting their project delivery targets and why their support systems and processes were designed the way they were. He asked the fundamental question about why the group existed. He challenged their assumptions and asked his team to consider another way.
Some people did not welcome the challenge and said, “That’s just the way we do things around here.” David resisted the pull of the environment to fit in, knowing that it would not serve his team in the long run if he were to do so.
There were also team members who embraced David’s questions. They knew that if things continued the way they were, the group would become obsolete. They were energised by the challenge of responding to his questions about a new future for the business. David would be the first to say that it was a team effort to successfully turn the group around. But the team also acknowledge that it took him being willing to ask the hard questions.
The pull to fit into our environment is very strong in all of us. Game-changing leaders are often confronted by the myth that the leader has to know all the answers and that they will look foolish if they ask questions. But they know that their job is to take people into uncharted waters and that they cannot do that if they simply accept the way we do things around here. In David’s case, he interrupted the environment by questioning everything.
In John C. Maxwell’s book, Good Leaders Ask Great Questions, he suggests that we only get answers to the questions we ask, so as leaders we need to get better at asking profound questions, even at the risk of looking foolish.
Are you pushing the environment around you or being pulled by it?