That was fun working with you all. Thanks for making it so easy.
Attached are the three chapters I promised from the first book, Enlightened Leadership: Getting to the HEART of Change. The three chapters have been updated, since the book came out 20 years ago.
Asking the right questions is definitely a key to unlock the door to many solutions we may never have imagined.
Remember, the quality of the answers we get is a reflection of the quality of the questions being asked.
Best to you in whatever you do, and remember – I’m looking for success stories for the next book. So go create a few and send me the stories…
Available on Amazon
GENERATING THE MINDSET SHIFT
No great improvements in the lot of man-
kind are possible until a great change takes
place in the fundamental constitution of
their modes of thought.
JOHN STUART MILL
English Economist and Philosopher
THE NEW PARADIGM
The most effective and successful leaders in today's dynamic business environment are those who have already discovered the key to creating a major shift in their people's mindsets. This is a shift from one that keeps them stuck in boxes to one that naturally searches for new and innovative solutions. For an organization to remain successful today its people must move beyond the natural resistance-to-change mode and move toward the highly focused, strategic, productive, empowered mindset of Creative Thinking-the 20%ers. This shifting of the individual and collective mindsets is, in fact, the solution to unlocking the energy, creativity, vitality, and spirit of people, teams, and organizations.
The best-performing organizations achieve the highest levels of both organizational results and human satisfaction concurrently. To accomplish this, they must first develop a new framework, or a new paradigm, that emphasizes fundamental yet frequently neglected components of personal and organizational effectiveness. These components include personal empowerment, energy management, quality consciousness, clear purpose, inspiring vision, and alignment. This paradigm requires the development of new approaches that directly address the real issue: the need to manage the collective mindset or attitude of the people.
When primary importance is given to these factors; the traditional factors, such as cost containment, quality improvement, higher productivity, increased sales, enhanced customer service, and increasing profitability become secondary concerns. Improvement in these hard measures are seen as the results of how well leaders are managing the soft people issues, including how well they are focusing their people's attention and energy.
Fifteen years after first writing the words above, it still amazes us how many people in key leadership roles have still not grasped these simple, yet profound concepts – these are the endarkened leaders.
The word "paradigm" has a rich heritage that evolved through the Greek, Latin, and French
languages. It is defined as a pattern, example, or model. Contemporary behaviorists and sociologists use this word to describe any idea or set of ideas that provides the basis for a framework of beliefs and actions. Simply put, a paradigm is a controlling perception - mindset.
Each of us sees the world from within a number of different paradigms. However, our
paradigms change, and even our once tightly held controlling perceptions can shift over time. For example, a once commonly held paradigm is "The world is flat." Nearly everyone believed this until 1492. "It is not possible to put a man on the moon" is a paradigm that people held for centuries. Until the 1960s most thought it impossible, but the refutation of this paradigm was broadcast to the world during 1969. "Smoking is an individual right" is a paradigm that only recently changed for a large portion of the Western world. For many years, smokers could light a cigarette anywhere or anytime they wanted. Beginning in 1990, airlines banned all smoking
on North American continental flights, and today it is more common for almost any facility we enter to be non-smoking.
We shift a variety of paradigms numerous times throughout our lives. For example, we do
so when we learn to do something new, like learning to ride a bicycle or work on a computer. Long before we learn to ride a bike, we know intellectually what we need to do. We know we need to pedal to keep the bike moving. We know we must turn the handle bars to keep the bike balanced and moving in the right direction. Regardless of what we know "intellectually," most of us fall over many times as we actually learn to ride. Then, seemingly in an instant, it all comes together, and we successfully ride the bicycle. A shift takes place inside us, and suddenly we really know how to ride the bike. We have just experienced a paradigm shift.
Once that shift has occurred, we will always know how to ride a bike.
In much the same way, when we first learned to use a computer we felt clumsy, but the more we learn about and work with the machine, the more a shift begins to take place. The shift may be sudden or it may be gradual. Either way, a paradigm shift occurs when we internalize the knowledge. At this point, it becomes more than an intellectual understanding. When the shift does come, sitting down to work on a computer becomes easy. The actions required become automatic, and we no longer have to think too much about what we are doing. We do it naturally. Kids today adapt to a computer almost instantly.
Yet some paradigms are difficult to change. Many business organizations are still locked into old paradigms that are ineffective and costly. It seems easier to stay locked in old, known, comfortable boxes. Continuous renewal, however, can only be achieved by organizations and individuals who are willing to undergo shifts in thinking-to re-examine their paradigms and find ways out of their boxes. Continuous renewal requires that we stop doing things the way we've always done them just because that's how we've always done them.
Whatever your organization's stage of development, everyone brings to it their own collection of paradigms – beliefs. Dr. Carl Sorensen, a professor at Stanford University, says, "There's an old expression, 'Seeing is believing.' But it's more accurate to say that 'believing is seeing.' That
Where in your organization may people be doing things one way just because they always did them that way?
What paradigms is your team or organization operating from that may be limiting your ability to achieve your objectives? What is it costing? What needs to change?
What paradigms about management exist that may be limiting your organizations? What does management do that tends to perpetuate those limiting paradigms?
What one thing can you do differently today to help your people make the essential shift in paradigms?
is, you tend to see what you believe you're going to see. You bring to a situation what you expect you're going to experience."
If we go to a party believing we are not going to have a good time, we will look for and find plenty of reasons to support that belief. We will notice some people standing around bored, someone upset about something, or someone in a bad mood. We will actually subconsciously seek to prove through our experience of the party that we were right about not having a good time. Our mind likes to be right. Unless we somehow shift our state of mind, we can count on not having a good time. What we focus on, based on the decision we made even before the party, is what we will experience.
On the other hand, if we go to the party with the expectation that we are going to have a good time, we will look for and notice plenty of situations that support that belief. We will see the people who are laughing and talking and dancing, or people who are happy and enjoying themselves. Our experience of the party is dependent upon the expectations we have about it. And, yes, both these scenarios are the same party!
To see how this concept works in the business arena, we'll use one of our clients as an example. We worked with a company in New York that had a long history of strikes and grievances. It was an especially interesting workshop, because both management and union officers participated. The tension in the room was thick. Many of the people were second – and third – generation union members.
The union members saw management from one particular paradigm: they thought that all managers wanted to do was to see how much they could get out of workers while paying them as little as possible. The management team had similar limitations in its paradigm: they saw the
union as wanting to do as little work as possible while getting paid as much as possible. Both groups were locked in their old paradigms, unable to see any other perspective.
During the workshop process, however, something began to happen. A new level of trust began to develop. People began opening up to each other and tension began easing. People from both groups started interacting and a higher level of communication and understanding developed. A shift in mindsets spread until at one point the union president stood up and declared, "The wall between union and management is officially down. We need to be looking at how we can work together in a way to help our company assure the future for all of us."
The paradigm shift of the individuals participating in the workshop from a hostile "we-versus-them" to an "it's-all-us” mindset was astounding, and later the culture of the entire organization experienced the same shift. The company went on to set new standards for productivity
we vs. them it’s all us
and finished the year with the highest annual profit in their history. All this occurred while the relationship between union members and management turned around dramatically.
Where might the "we-versus-them" paradigm be costing your organization?
What would be the benefits to your organization Of moving from a "we-versus-them" mindset to an "it's- all of -us" attitude?
In what ways could you lead this shift?
THE POWER OF SHIFTING FOCUS
“Never doubt that a small group of committed people
can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that can”
Margaret Mead, renowned anthropologist
We've observed some truly exciting things happen when enough people in organizations make the paradigm shift away from a problem orientation to a solution orientation. For instance, a major computer company had taken on an enormous software development project. It was a complex undertaking involving hundreds of people and was contracted to be delivered in 48 months.
Well into the project it became clear to top management that it would take 18 months longer than originally scheduled to deliver the software to the customer. The ax hanging over the heads of every employee was a penalty for tens of millions of dollars to be assessed if the venture was even one day late. It was seen as such an impossible situation that management had virtually written off the huge penalty as a foregone conclusion and were more concerned about operating expenses for the extra 18 months. They were clearly stuck in a paradigm that said they were so far behind schedule that there was no hope of catching up. All they could see was what was wrong with their situation, the problems they faced.
Despite this environment, there was an incredible turnaround. With only 10 months left, the project went from being 18 months behind schedule to completion 30 days ahead of the original deadline. The difference was not a new invention or a technological breakthrough but a major mindset shift a paradigm shift in focus. Instead of focusing on all the reasons they were 18 months behind schedule, the people were empowered to shift their focus toward what needed to happen to achieve the original objective. The focus model looks like the diagram below.
The people had been so enmeshed in all the problems, all the reasons they were so far behind schedule, they had lost sight of the original goal-to deliver quality software on time. The mandate driven down from top management was to find out what was wrong so it could be fixed. This diverted people's focus from getting the job done (their original objective), to finding the cause of the delay and avoiding getting blamed for the problems.
As the project got further and further behind, the drive from the top became stronger and stronger to find what was wrong and place blame for the problems. Trust and cooperation diminished from the frequent finger pointing and resultant conflicts. Defensive postures abounded. At a time when it was most crucial for the people to work together as a team, they were driven even further apart by management's incessant quest to hold someone responsible for the situation.
reasons we’re what needs to
behind schedule happen to achieve
So much of the people's time and energy was going into nonproductive or even counterproductive activity that there was little left over to apply to finding solutions. In this mode of thinking, the creativity of the people was squelched. As more and more energy was spent trying to avoid being blamed for the problems, this defensive energy further reduced what was available for creating the desired results.
Where have you experienced a similar problem orientation that squelched the energy and creativity of your people?
What was the environment like? What were
How was performance impacted? What was
Through a revitalizing workshop process, as well as insightful leadership, a critical mass of the people made a paradigm shift in their focus. They shifted much of the energy they had been spending on worrying about all the problems to simply focusing on what needed to be done to achieve the objective.
(Note: While it is important to understand how this shift was made, right now we would like to look solely at its effects. We will discuss how to create a similar shift later in this chapter.)
This example reveals the enormous amounts of untapped potential and discretionary energy available once a shift in thinking and focus occurs. Tremendous productive energy and creativity are freed when members of any team or organization begin to manage better where and how they focus their attention.
Organizations that already have achieved a paradigm shift in attitude by learning how to better manage the focus g a new vision of how of their people's attention are creatin teams of people can work together. They are enjoying exciting levels of performance, achievement, and satisfaction that are moving closer and closer to their vision of how good it can be.
NET FORWARD ENERGY ENHANCING RATIOâ
When they first begin work, most individuals, teams, and organizations are clearly focused on their objectives. To a great degree, how well those objectives are achieved is determined by the direct energy put into them. Direct energy means not just how much energy but how well that energy is focused, managed, and expended.
At any given time, we have a certain amount of energy available to us. This is true for individuals, teams, and organizations as a whole. On an ongoing basis, we have choices about how we use the energy available, including our discretionary energy. All of this energy can be used to either move toward or away from the objective.
We refer to the ratio between the productive energy utilized to move us toward our objective and the non- or counterproductive energy that is holding us back as the Net Forward Energy Ratio. This mathematical model illustrates the impact on performance of the collective or individual focus of our energy. It assumes we could somehow actually measure our energy utilization.
To use the software development project as an example, let's say that when they were 18 months behind schedule with only 10 months to go, 40% of their time and energy was spent in figuring out what was wrong, who was to blame, and all the reasons they couldn't get done on time. Consequently, only 60% of the available energy was then left over to apply toward the solutions that would enable them to reach the original objective. The Net Forward Energy Ratio model would look like the first diagram below.
When management discovered how to manage the organizational energy more effectively, let's say that they were able to shift an additional 20% of the total energy away from the reasons that they could not achieve their objectives. That additional energy was then refocused on the results they wanted, and the numbers in the model change accordingly, as in the second diagram below.
The Net Forward Energy Ratio in this example shifts from 60 divided by 40, or 1.5, to 80 divided by 20, or 4.0. The shift from 1.5 to 4.0 is almost triple the initial Net Forward Energy Ratio, which we see as directly proportional to performance improvement.
That represents a tremendous increase in forward motion, or improved performance, with a relatively small shift in energy or focus. It was enough of an improvement in performance to go from 18 months behind schedule with only 10 months to deadline to finishing one month ahead of schedule and saving a huge monetary penalty.
what was wrong, who was to solutions needed
blame, all the reasons they to meet objectives
were behind schedule
were behind solutions needed
schedule to meet objectives
Again, we are not proposing that problems be ignored. When we approach what we are doing from a strategic way of thinking that focuses clearly on the desired end result rather than avoiding the problems, we more effectively deal with the real issues that keep us from achieving our goal. We enable ourselves to look at the problems from a perspective that invites solutions rather than one that seeks to place blame.
When our friend Gary showed up at a hotel to conduct a seminar, he found a mistake had been made in bookings and the meeting room was actually being used by someone else. He had a choice at that point. He could work his way through the hotel staff to uncover who had made the mistake and why it had happened - the problem orientation - or he could focus on his desired result - finding a place to conduct the seminar. We happened to be there and must admit that our first reaction was "Who screwed up?" He chose instead to spend his energy
looking for a place where he could conduct the seminar. Within a matter of minutes another facility was located, and he and the participants moved on toward their objective.
When we first walk into a meeting room to lead a workshop, there may be a number of things wrong with the room. One choice we have is to find and fix all the things wrong or to look at what we are there to accomplish and deal only with those issues keeping us from our objective.
For instance, a light bulb may be out in a light fixture, there may be a tear in the carpet, or the draping on the tables may not be even. We could go through the room with a fine-tooth comb fixing all the things that are wrong. All the energy put in to that effort is a drain, and we could probably find things wrong for the rest of the day. On the other hand, ff the light bulb over our flip chart is out, it is important that it be replaced so people can clearly see the charts. The question is, "What needs to be done to get us to where we want to be?" We do not want to put energy into anything not on our list of needs.
Ed tells this story: "I am the primary 'computer person' in our organization, and several years ago we received a new revision of the page-layout software we utilize to create workbooks and marketing materials, I was eager to convert our workbooks to the new software, so I dropped everything I was doing to install the new revision. Besides, I enjoy working with the computer.
"Having installed the software, I began the simple process of automatically converting the 80-page workbook. After the system ground away for about five minutes, it suddenly bombed. System failure! It could not convert! I played around with it for over an hour trying to figure out what I was doing wrong, but kept having the system crash. I finally called the software publisher, and it didn't take them long to tell me our workbook was not convertible because of something we had done in the process of creating it. I was upset and frustrated to say the least! The only alternative we had was to convert the workbook manually, one page at a time, which I estimated to be a three or four-day process of tedious computer work.
Still upset, I decided I might as well get the project over with and started to work on it. About that time, after I had invested approximately three hours on this minor disaster, Doug came into my office, and I told him what I was doing. After listening to my 'bad-news' story, he asked a simple question: 'How does this project relate to our primary objective?' That question stopped me in my tracks.
This event occurred when the business was still in a start-up phase. We really had only one objective at the time-sales! Unless we were successful in selling our services, nothing else really mattered. Yet, look how easily I was distracted from our one key objective. The choice model that fits here might look like the diagram on page 108.
solve problems stay focused
"Was the need to manually convert the workbook to the new software a real problem? Yes, it was. Would converting the workbook support us in accomplishing our immediate objective? Absolutely not! There was nothing wrong with the old version; it served our needs just fine at the time. Eventually, if the software were no longer supported and we had a problem, it could
be a critical issue. At this point in our company's development, however, the only things we could really afford to work on were those directly related to selling our services."
The only problems we need to handle are the ones that show up on the way to achieving our critical objectives. And when they do show up, we need to deal with them directly while keeping one eye on the objective and making sure what we are doing moves us closer to that objective. In the computer example, manually converting the workbook to the new software version would have contributed nothing to our critical objective of selling our services.
As leaders learn to better manage energy by shifting their people's focus, a paradigm shift begins to occur throughout their organizations. When a critical mass of people are focused on what they are trying to accomplish and have a "can-do" attitude, instead of a "can't-get-there-from-here" attitude, the impact on performance is profound. People clearly sense the difference. The difference is revitalizing, re-energizing, renewing. It is a shift from the fundamental paradigm of Reactive Thinking to the fundamental paradigm of Creative Thinking (see Chapter 4, page 59). This empowering shift is the key to creating and maintaining a continuous renewal consciousness throughout an organization.
In what ways could you better focus your people's energy toward the results you want?
When things get off track, how could you continually bring them back on track?
What would be the effect on performance to be able to do this consistently?
Consider the diffused power of a 100-watt light bulb. Properly used and strategically placed, it can be very useful. It can illuminate a hallway, or it can light up a backyard. Light bulbs can be used to help a surgeon see clearly during a delicate operation. Yet, if that same amount of light energy is highly focused into a laser beam, it becomes powerful enough to cut through metal. Likewise, the power of focusing an organization's energy like a laser is awesome. It shows up dramatically in results achieved. Is the Net Forward Energy Ratio concept mathematically accurate? We do not know scientifically, but from our experience it fits the real world quite well. In any case, it is a valuable conceptual model.
The key is to focus as much energy as possible in the direction we want to move, which is toward our objective. We can choose to focus our energy like a laser beam in a concentrated, productive direction, or we can diffuse it in any number of directions, some of which are nonproductive or even counterproductive. The model of choices would look like the diagram on page 110.
diffused energy concentrated focus
NET FORWARD ENERGY RATIO PERFORMANCE CURVE
Let's look at Net Forward Energy Ratio from the reverse perspective. Suppose we are running a well-focused organization. Our energy is mostly forward-focused and our Net Forward Energy Ratio is high. The choice model we might utilize is shown on page 111.
In this scenario, what would happen if we
How would our Net Forward Energy Ratio be affected?
What is the extent of the i"Wact of a small bad-news distraction?
If we plot Net Forward Energy Ratio versus the percentage of energy that is forward-focused, we get the graph on page 111. Let’s suppose your organization is on a roll and has 90% of its energy and attention focused on the forward side of the focus model.
The Net Forward Energy Ratio on the graph is forward-focused energy percentage divided by backward-focused distractions energy percentage, which for this case is 90%/10% = 9. What happens if something occurs that causes the forward focus to drop only 10%? Then, the backward focus increases by 100%, and the Ratio becomes 80%/20% = 4. With only a 10% shift in forward focus, the Net Forward Energy Ratio drops from 9 to 4, to less than half! A slight change in forward focus dramatically impacts our performance.
Net Forward Energy Ratio
50 60 70 80 90
% Forward Focus
Remember a time when you were moving ahead at full steam on something you were doing, feeling empowered and experiencing satisfaction from what you were accomplishing as you got closer and closer to your ob- jective. Then someone came in to tell you what you were doing wrong. What happened to your productive energy level?
How long did it take to lose your enthusiasm?
How long did it take to build your momentum back up to where it had been?
In remembering how tong it took you to rebuild your enthusiasm, what might be the impact on an organization when its people are in a "what's-wrong" mode?
Unfortunately, it is easy to impact an organization in a negative way. All it takes to cause a negative focus shift within an organization or team is a dip in the stock market, takeover talks, downsizings or layoffs, reorganizations, rising interest rates, a breakthrough by a competitor, business closings in the area, or even a negative supervisor or team member. When these concerning situations occur, many people in the organization begin looking for what's wrong with the condition and ask themselves, "How am I going to be hurt by this?" Knowing how much a team can be affected is helpful in seeing how important it is to manage the energy of your organization.
Once people within an organization learn to manage their energy and focus, positive changes can become rather dramatic. If an organization could actually become 100% forward-focused, the Net Forward Energy Ratio would be 100 divided by 0. That equals infinity and, theoretically, such an organization could accomplish anything.
Think of a time recently when the energy level dropped in your organization. What caused it to happen?
How was the organization impacted?
However, reaching a Net Forward Energy Ratio of infinity is not what this discussion is about. It is about continually renewing, continually moving closer and closer to where we ultimately want to be. As we have seen, even small changes in forward focus are extremely impactive.
As the Net Forward Energy Ratio is enhanced, people begin looking more at what is right about their work.environment than at what is wrong about it. They become more open to possibilities and begin building on what is working and on what they want more of. They become excited about what they are doing. Their self-confidence rises.
One of the critical, strategic roles of enlightened, renewing leaders is to focus the energy of their organizations. Many influences every day already manage, guide, change, and direct the energy of our people. Leaders can manage the organization's Net Forward Energy Ratio by consciously making the choice of where to focus their energy and their people's energy. There may be no better way a leader can leverage his or her time than through empowering people by helping them maintain their optimal focus.
The concepts surrounding the Net Forward Energy Ratio are not to be confused with classical motivation. Motivation efforts often try to bring in outside energy and add it to the system. At its best, motivation is a quick fix or a Band-Aid supplied by someone else. At its worst, traditional motivation only addresses the symptom-low energy-without issue-what causes the energy to resolving the underlying below.
The approach we have been discussing focuses and aligns the energy that is already in an organization. This existing energy is virtually inexhaustible. Remember the light bulb/laser beam illustration? The energy is already present. The key centers on accessing and focusing that energy.
NAMING OUR MODEL OF CHOICES
During the course of this book, we have been using a model to provide a simple illustration of the choices we have for how we focus our attention and energy. For example, as a reminder of the choices we have about whether to focus on the reasons we cannot accomplish an objective or on the results we want to achieve, we might use the graphic model shown below.
The name we give this model of the choices we have, or the focus model, is NeFERâ (pronounced like never, but with an F sound), which comes from Net Forward Energy Ratio. We would call this particular example the reasons results NeFER. NeFERs suggest that we have a choice of where to focus our attention and energy. We can focus either on the reasons we cannot accomplish the objective or on the results we desire. In this case, "reasons" is back-
ward on the NeFER and "results" is forward on the NeFER. If we.focus backward on the NeFER, we hold ourselves back. If we focus forward on the NeFER, we move forward toward our goal.
FRAMEWORK FOR CONTINUOUS RENEWAL
With the help of numerous clients, we have developed a structured approach to managing
the focus and energy of individuals and teams in ways that create the paradigm shift in mindsets we are looking for. While any focus mechanism or approach that is directed to the forward side of an appropriate NeFER supports the mindset shift over time, we have found this five-step framework to be particularly effective.
It represents a series of focus choices, and it can be extremely effective for problem-solving,
vision or mission development, performance appraisals, project and performance reviews, customer service planning, and many other day-to-day tactical business needs. It is so versatile that the same generic framework, which we call the Framework for Continuous Renewal, also can accurately be called a Framework for Continuous Improvement, a Framework for Total Quality Consciousnessâ, a Framework for Effective Problem-Solving, a Framework for Continuous Quality Improvement, a Framework for Creating Paradigm Shifts, a Framework doe Solution Finding or a Framework for Leadership, etc.
1. Celebrate the small successes you are achieving,
2. Research extensively what you are doing to generate these successes.
3. Continually reclarify (refocus on) in great detail your specific objective(s).
4. Help all parties (customers, shareholders, the organization, team, each person) understand the benefits of achieving the objectives.
5. Continually search for what you could be doing more of, better or differently, to move
closer to the objectives.
Reviewing the five steps more closely, what do you notice about them that would support the desired mindset shift?
What is it about this particular combination
How do they support dealing with problems in an empowering way?
What is the overall intention behind this framework?
Let's look more closely at how the five steps of the Framework for Continuous Renewal work. Remember, these are generic elements of a five-step process. The specific “words" may be different depending on how the process is being used. The intention of the framework is more important than the specific words.
Notice how Step 1 focuses clearly on the forward side of the focus model, the "what's-
working" side of the NeFER instead of the "what's-not-working" side. As we have discussed, this energizes people and gets them communicating in a positive way. The more people are energized by looking at the positive side of an issue, the more their minds are open to the possibilities.
Step 2 analyzes the reasons why what you are doing is working and is effective. This is far
more energizing and enjoyable than the more typical approach of analyzing what is not working. In addition, Step 2 supports understanding the real causes of effectiveness. This clear understanding allows people to repeat consciously what works more frequently, including utilizing it in other areas. This is the learning step.
The combination of Steps 1 and 2 is extremely empowering. By the time a team has
completed these two steps, energy and creativity are high and communication is open. It has them feeling good about what they are doing, and their self-esteem is enhanced. These are nurturing, encouraging steps. The team is functioning from an effective state of mind that is necessary for moving forward toward solutions or desired outcomes.
With this high level of positive energy now available, we are ready to move on to Step 3.
This step clarifies as specifically as possible the end objective. It describes as completely as possible what it will be like when the team achieves its goal. The objective here is to create a crystal-clear vision of the desired result. To the extent the objective is clear, it will pull the team toward creating it.
So far, Steps 1 and 2 have provided the energy and empowered state of mind necessary to deal
effectively with an issue or bring about a desired result. Then, Step 3 created a detailed description of the desired outcome or result. Notice a gap has been created between Step 1 and Step 3. The gap, or void, is the difference between what is already working and where you ultimately want to be. This gap acts like a vacuum, pulling in the resources needed to fill it. It
naturally energizes the individual or team to want to close the gap. The gap represents what needs to be done to meet the objective.
In the old paradigm, we would meet to discuss a problem and get mired in all the reasons why we had this problem and all the reasons we couldn’t resolve it. Energy often drops like a rock in these “problem-solving” sessions. So much energy goes into defending ourselves that little energy or creativity is left over for finding solutions.
For comparative purposes, let’s call this new approach Framework for Effective Problem-Solving. Using this framework, we effectively deal with the problem without getting mired in it. We simply generate energy and creativity, get clear on the outcome we want, then see what it takes to fill the gap. The situation is not seen as a problem but as an opportunity to move from where we are toward where we want to be. It is truly a solution orientation.
Step 4 supports the team members in getting clear about what achieving the objectives will do for all parties concerned. By focusing on the higher levels of value first (i.e., benefits for customers, the organization, and the team), it becomes much easier then to home in on what
achieving the objectives would do for each participant personally. This is the “what’s in it for me” piece. Once people are clear about the personal benefit of achieving an objective, they are motivated to do what needs to be done to make it happen. They have bought in to the objective and are committed to meeting the goal.
Note that the “what’s in it for me” will vary widely from person to person. The benefit for one individual might be directly personal, while another’s benefit might be just feeling part of a successful team. What the benefit is, is not important, only that the individuals are clear about it for themselves.
This approach generates a high level of energy and creativity, as well as creating an effective
mindset. It clarifies the objective in great detail, and each person becomes clear about the personal value in achieving that objective. All that remains is to use the creativity, energy, and commitment of the team to determine what actions they need to take to move closer to achieving the objective.
Accomplishing Steps 1 through 4 prepares us for Step 5. Once we have generated the energy, creativity, and clarity of our objective in the previous steps, the final step is simpler and more enjoyable. Because of the attitude with which people come into this step, the solutions are usually clear and often obvious.
The communication officers in the Denver Communications Center of the Colorado State
Patrol were receiving an average of about six complaints a week from their own people. The people didn't like each other, had a high sick leave rate, and constantly bickered and gossiped; rumors were the norm rather than the exception. Teaching new skills and techniques did not improve the situation.
Major Don Lamb describes it this way, "A positive self-image is very, very critical. I'm finding that in most teams, the number one factor is trust. That's the big word that's always coming up in all of the meetings that I have been conducting. One of the big things that occurs is that when the trust level goes down, communications start shutting off and positive self-image really starts to drop. People start focusing on the negative rather than the positive, and the more they focus on the negative, the more their self-image goes down. It's like a vicious spiral and a whirlpool that takes people down, that takes whole teams down, that takes whole companies down."
By consistently using the Framework for Continuous Renewal as a basis for their meetings, the communication officers created a dramatic shift in their people's attitudes. Complaints were reduced from six a week to one a month.
"That's a tremendous drop," states Major Lamb. "Sick leave has also been reduced dramatically simply by addressing attitudes directly. Those people work so well together not it is amazing. Those are the kind of measurable results that mean something to me. The more we use these approaches with the right intent, the more trusing our people become. The more we trust our people, the more they begin to trust us, trust themselves, and trust each other.”
More information as to how the morale was transformed at the Colorado State Patrol is available in a two-page article. For a complimentary copy of “Quality: The Human Factor,” call 1-800-798-9881.
What has been most frustrating for you about more traditional approaches to issue resolution? What level of true success have they achieved in your organization?
What level of commitment to the solutions have they generated?
In what ways has the level of commitment affected the team’s ability to achieve desired results?
What benefits would your team enjoy from having a higher level of commitment and ownership?
Two aspects of our focus are very important. First, it is critically important to nurture and grow our organization’s most important assets and resources – our people. If we spend all of our time and energy nurturing, however, there will be not time left over for creating results. Therefore, our second critical focus is on the objectives we want to achieve and how we are going to accomplish them. This sets the expectations for the outcomes we need.
It is vitally important to balance the energy focused on these two factors: supporting our people and creating results. Notice how the “Framework for Continuous Renewal” provides that balance. Steps 1 and 2 provide the encouragement and growth of our people. Steps 3, 4, and 5 focus on creating results. Both factors are essential to long-term success.
As discussed, managing energy involves consciously choosing how we focus the energy we already have. Focusing our attention as much as possible on the forward side of an appropriate focus model, or NeFER, is critical to the ongoing renewal of our people and organization.
NOTE: For much more depth and richness with this profound tool see “Leadership Made Simple” by Ed Oakley and Doug Krug. For personally signed copies, firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. In every stage of life, we bring our attitudes and our personal collection of
2. To establish a renewing organization, the primary need is to bring about a
3. When enough people within an organization become change-friendly, renewal
4. The ability of an organization to move forward depends upon how much
5. It is vitally important to balance the energy focused on two key factors:
You are searching for the magic key that will unlock
the door to the source of power; and yet you have
the key in your own hands, and you may use
it the moment you learn to control your
Think and Grow Rich
Available on Amazon
ASKING VERSUS TELLING
Tell me and I'll forget; show me and I may
remember; involve me and I'll understand.
DO IT MY WAY
Think about what happens most often when we decide to make a major change in the way our organization does things. Typically we call everyone together, tell them the new idea, and give them all our good reasons as to why it is important to do things the new way. At best, we attempt to sell the change by presenting all the benefits we think it will produce. This part of the change process does not take very long and is reasonably effortless.
The next part, acceptance, or buy-in, and successful implementation can seemingly take forever, if, in fact, it ever occurs. Later, when analyzing the change efforts, we conclude that, at best, there was something wrong with the way we presented the idea that caused a lack of acceptance by the people and poor results. At worst, we may feel that our employees were just obstinate. Both may be true-but for a reason so simple it generally is not even recognized.
How do you feel when someone tells you how it's going to be, giving you no choice or input in the matter?
How do you feel when a change is announced where you had no input in the decisions?
What might our people be hearing when we tell them our good ideas?
People tend to resist changes that are thrust upon them, while they naturally support ideas and changes they help create. "Telling," by its very nature, lays the foundation for defensiveness and resistance, because it thrusts change upon others. This is especially true when the telling involves notifying people how they personally need to change.
The reason for this is simple: When we tell someone what to do differently and why it is important to do it, we convey subtle-even if unintended-messages along with the basic information. These may suggest, "My way is better than yours" or "Your way is wrong." Whether or not a negative message is implied or intended, often the receivers of the message may still hear or feel negativity and become hurt or offended-a common response to criticism. In business, as in other areas of life, resistance often follows this response. Resistance is energy spent on not doing something, on avoiding change itself, or on fearing a change. It is a defensive reaction, a natural, self-protective response. This resistance may show up as complacency, lack of commitment, nonaction, outward opposition, or subtle sabotage.
Ed Tilford, former director of software engineering for a major computer firm, provided us with an example. His team of software engineers clearly needed a software program to help them perform structural analysis. After researching the available solutions himself, Ed chose a package that he felt met the team's needs and bought it.
Though the $200,000 software package addressed the structural analysis problems they were experiencing, his team exhibited substantial resistance to using the software. They finally did acquiesce; however, they certainly did not buy in, and this was obvious from their lack of commitment to using the program. After a long period of dealing with the team's resistance, Ed held a meeting with his software engineers. The bottom line was simply that they just didn't like the software he had purchased.
Ed then turned the problem over to his team to handle themselves. After some investigation, they chose another program. They were very happy with their choice and used it enthusiastically to advance the work they were doing. Curiously, Ed found that the program they chose was extremely similar to the one that he had originally selected. In fact, it had been developed by a team that had left the company that made the original program. The primary difference between the two programs was that the team got behind the one they had chosen.
It is important to note, though, that people don't resist change as much as they resist being changed. As we discussed in Chapter 4, when we come up with our own ideas for change we are not likely to resist them, but watch us automatically have some degree of resistance to someone else's ideas no matter how good or logical they are.
Our degree of resistance is likely to be inversely proportional to our level of self-esteem. Indeed, the essence of resistance to change revolves around people's self-image, or how they feel about themselves. Reactive Thinkers suffer from low self-esteem, and thus will have high resistance to change. The higher self-esteem of the Creative Thinker results in less resistance to change. Creative Thinkers are not as threatened by change.
Think of a time when you had a good idea and couldn't wait to tell someone. When you did tell them, what was their level of enthusiasm compared to yours?
Did you find yourself trying to convince them how good the idea was?
How did you feel about their response?
WHOSE PERSPECTIVE COUNTS, ANYWAY?
Traditionally, management has responded to resistance to change by trying to convince people of the importance of achieving an objective. In many cases, these leaders can't understand why their people are resistant at all. This is, in part, because most people in leadership roles don't tend to see the world the way a Reactive Thinker does. Their tendency to be more like the Creative Thinker separates them from the rest of the pack and is often a factor helping them rise to roles of leadership. At the same time, this different perspective makes it difficult for them to understand the behavior of the more Reactive Thinkers, making up 80% or more of their people.
Like most of us, these leaders sometimes forget or find it difficult to look at the world from a perspective other than their own. They forget that many other people see the world through a set of eyes conditioned to focus on what's wrong. These Reactive Thinkers tend to look at any idea or change for how it might hurt them instead of for the opportunity it might provide.
Yet, we only see what is important from our own perspective. And what is important to us may not be to someone else. Even if we really try to see a situation from another's perspective-to put ourselves in their shoes, so to speak the conclusions we come up with still represent only our perspective of what they think.
These differences in perspectives create major problems when using the telling approach to change implementation. They can sabotage even the best-intentioned telling actions. For example, a plant manager for a large manufacturing firm noticed he was getting many complaints from production line assemblers about huge gaps in the flow of units and parts to their division. Assemblers were having to wait for work to do, and, since they were on a piece-rate pay plan, it was costing them dearly.
In an effort to solve the problem, the plant manager called in a traditional consulting firm to study the situation. The consultants said they needed to be able to track the production flow through each stage and determine where and how the snags were developing. They recommended installing electronic sensing devices and video cameras at key points along the line.
On the day the instruments were to be installed, the manager called his assemblers together. He explained that he had heard their complaints, that the company was spending nearly $20,000 to find the snags, and that management would spend whatever it took to correct the problem. He ended his speech by reaffirming how much the company valued its employees and wanted to do its part to enable them to make as much money as possible. He was taken aback by the subdued response he received.
As promised, the instruments were all installed and turned on. Within a week, however, more than half of the devices had been sabotaged by grease guns and electric staplers. A couple of camera lenses had even been broken with hammers.
"Why?" he asked angrily in a subsequent meeting with the employees. "We were trying to solve your problems!"
After a long, tense silence, someone answered, "We don't appreciate 'Big Brother' spying on us!"
"That was not our intent at all," the plant manager countered.
"Look, we're not stupid," the brave one replied. "We all know it's just a matter of time before
you put the finger on slower workers and fire them."
The equipment was quickly removed, and the solution stalled indefinitely.
T'he plant manager's intentions were good. He even recognized the importance of keeping people informed about his actions. But he told them how he was going to solve their problem.
That approach cost the company a lot of money. Even worse, it damaged the manager's credibility with the very people he was trying to help.
What resistance have you faced recently to what you considered to be a superb idea?
What insights have you gained from this book so far that are most helpful in understanding what caused the resistance?
In thinking back about the situation, how might the way the idea was presented have contributed to the resistance?
What would you do differently next time?
A DIFFERENT APPROACH
What would have happened if the plant manager had asked the assemblers to participate in
finding a solution? Our experience in similar situations suggests that they might very well have suggested using cameras and sensing devices themselves, come up with a modified approach to solving the problem or found a less costly and/or more effective solution.
In any case, the assemblers would have supported whatever solution was implemented
because it was their solution. By devising it themselves, they would have felt they possessed ownership of it and would consequently buy-in to its implementation. Rather than resisting the change, they would welcome it and help it happen successfully. Indeed, they would have a personal stake in that success.
This makes so much common sense on paper, yet time and again we are asked to come in to organizations (even some of the most respected) to help them recover from the resistance and resentment created by not honoring their own people.
Let's look at how to approach a similar situation in a different manner. The management
team of an east coast manufacturing firm with a long-standing adversarial relationship with its union found itself confronted with yet another grievance. In the past, management had always responded to complaints by telling the union how it was willing to resolve the situation. The union would then typically tell management what it wanted. This counterproposal would then lead to a focus on the differences between the two, and conflict lines inevitably were drawn.
This time, however, the management team decided to handle the grievance differently. The
members discussed the problem and came to some conclusions about what a satisfactory outcome would look like from their perspective. During the following week the operations manager casually asked different members of the union's executive committee for their ideas about ways to best resolve the grievance.
Within 10 days the union president presented the management team with a proposal. This
proposed resolution was surprisingly close to what management had already decided would work for them. The grievance was resolved much more quickly and with less tension and conflict than in the past. These results were achieved by management asking the union members what they thought it would take to resolve the grievance rather than telling them the way it was going to be handled.
In your leadership role, what was the last significant change you implemented or tried to implement?
How did your individual people respond outwardly to the plan?
How did they respond in implementing the change?
How did the response vary among your people?
How effective was the change?
What did you do that best contributed to its success?
THE MANAGER-EMPLOYEE REALITY GAP
For years survey have reported a tremendous gap that exists between what managers ‘think’ is important to their people, and what really is important from people’s own perspectives.
What is important to employees?
Items ranked by employees Employee Employer
and employers in order of
importance from 1 to 10
(1) Appreciation 1 8
(2) Feeling in on things 2 10
(3) Help on personal problems 3 9
This reality gap gives us a strong hint about what needs to happen to implement successful change and develop a renewing organization. How could we possibly expect to get the best from our people unless they are getting what they most want from us? How can we give them what they want if we don't know what that is? The simple answer is to ask rather than second-guess our people's needs.
Notice that the three items most important to employees are soft issues. When employees feel misunderstood by corporate leaders and when they don't get what they want from them, employee morale drops. As the attitude shifts downward, so does energy and focus. Performance follows the downward trend as productivity, quality, customer service, and other hard measures fall as well. Furthermore, this situation breeds destructive relationships between employees and management, which further incites the downward spiral of disappointment, morale, attitudes, energy, focus, performance, and relationships. Sabotage is common outcome of this downward spiral – not necessarily malicious, but the out come is the same.
Just how much discretionary effort/energy is being held back that could be available to apply toward increasing productivity, enhancing customer service, cutting costs, or improving quality? Daniel Yankelovich's study shows that: "About a fifth of the workers feel they're giving everything they can to the job; another fifth don't want to give anything more than the little they are now giving; but the 6% in the middle say they would give more to their work if there were more in it for them. . . . "
What would it mean to your organization if 60% of the people gave just I0% more to their jobs?
When was the last time you asked your people what was important to them?
A typical response from management to the statement that 60% "would give more to their work if there were more in it for them" is that the workers are talking about more money – a hard issue. Yet, virtually every study and all our combined years of experience show money has much less importance to employees than being appreciated and feeling in on things and participating in what is going on within the organization. A strong second, is the need to be part of something important, feeling that what someone is doing is making a difference.
When we work with teams and ask them to clarify what they want and need more of from leadership to enable them to do a better job, money is seldom, if ever, mentioned. In those rare instances where money is brought up, it takes little probing to get to what people are really saying. The issue is almost always "they're going to have to pay me more money if I'm going to have to put up with this B.S." The "B.S." is being unappreciated and excluded, which are byproducts of not being asked.
THE REAL EXPERTS – WHY PAY SOMEONE ELSE TO TELL YOUR PEOPLE WHAT THEY ALREADY KNOW?
The real experts about an organization - the people with the solutions to resolve practically every issue an organization faces-are its own people. Rather than seeking out consultants from the outside for expert advice, the real challenge lies in learning to access the untapped wealth of expertise and -knowledge found within the organization itself. As Wolf Schmitt, president and chief operating officer of Rubbermaid, emphasized in a speech at an annual shareholder's meeting, ". . . everyone is an expert in a highly specialized field ... his or her own job. Odds are, each individual knows better than anyone how to improve it. - - - "
By asking questions leaders help their people discover for themselves what is important for them in doing what is necessary for the company. This discovery process improves their self-confidence and self-esteem, empowering them in the process. Concurrently, they take ownership of the solution, because they have participated in developing it.
What has been the value of the questions we have asked you, as the reader, in this book so far?
Where in your organization could you be asking these same questions?
When working with an executive team in a workshop setting, a question we use to introduce Effective Questions is, “Who has learned as much, if not more, from your peers in the room as you have from the facilitator?” It is rare when having hand in the room isn’t raised in response to this question.
T'here is at least one additional benefit of asking instead of telling. When we ask, we put out subtle messages that are important for building the self-esteem and self-confidence of our people, which is the key to shifting their thinking paradigm. The messages are, "I care about what you think," and, "Your opinion is important, and it counts around here." These are important acknowledgments for the people in any organization. The more people feel that they make a difference, the better they will feel about what they are doing. The better they feel about what they are doing, the more their self-esteem is enhanced and the more contribution they will make.
One of the least productive aspects of making bricks at a nationally prominent Denver-based firm was the equipment changeover, or setup, from producing one style of brick to another. Management had spent countless hours in meetings trying to find a way to accomplish the productivity-killing task in less time. No matter what they tried the result was pretty much the same-two hours to make the change.
After helping their management team go through a paradigm shift in their approach from telling to asking, they brought their people together to discuss the issue. The basic theme was, "If there were no limitations on what you could do, what would you do to complete the equipment setup better and more quickly?" As a result of the ideas from that one meeting, the changeover time was reduced to under 30 minutes. The people had the answers all along. They just had not been asked or listened to.
The people on any team possess tremendous knowledge, wisdom, creativity, and energy. Enlightened leaders access this wealth of experience and empower their people through the effective use of questions.
1. No matter how good the idea is, when we tell people what to do and how to do it, there is a tendency to resist.
2. The ideas people will support most are the ones they come up
3. Whenever we tell someone how to do something differently, we may convey a subtle negative message that the way they've been performing is wrong or not good enough, which often creates defensiveness.
4. Asking people for their input encourages both creativity and buy-in.
5. The real experts about your organization are your own people, and the management challenge lies in tapping into this wealth of knowledge.
By examining and understanding the past, we
can move into the future unencumbered by it. We
become free to express ourselves, rather than
endlessly trying to prove ourselves.
On Becoming a Leader
Available on Amazon
THE ULTIMATE EMPOWER TOOL
The teacher, if indeed wise, does not bid
you to enter the house of their wisdom, but
leads you to the threshold of your own
Lebanese Poet and Painter (1883-1931)
COMBINING FORWARD FOCUS AND QUESTIONS
In previous chapters we looked at focus as a primary way of creating a paradigm shift in the mindset of our people; at the NeFER as a model of the choices we have about where to focus our attention and energy; and, at asking vs. telling as a tool for empowerment. With all these concepts, our goal is to move people from the disempowered state of Reactive Thinking to the empowered state of Creative Thinking. This represents a paradigm shift in how we focus our attention and energy.
Each of these concepts is powerful in its own right, but there is a specific tool that takes empowerment and effectiveness to a far higher level. We call this tool ‘Effective Questions’ (EQs). It combines the power of focusing on the forward side of the NeFER combined with the power of asking questions rather than telling. This combination creates much greater results than the sum of the results achieved by either of these concepts separately.
Over the last eighteen years the most common feedback we receive from clients is the power and simplicity of this simple and profound tool. These clients have labeled them “The Ultimate Empowerment Tool.” Those leaders who master the simple art of asking EQs and listening, unleash the energy and creativity of their people and focus it like a laser on what needs to be done to continually improve their organizations and fulfill the people working within them.
It is that simple. The better we become at asking EQs, as well as effectively listening, the more consistently we and our people can accomplish mutually satisfying objectives. This approach to seeking solutions separates Enlightened Leaders from managers who are continuously plagued by personnel and resistance problems, the Endarkened Leaders. Indeed by asking EQs we empower our employees, thus creating a willingness on their part to pursue change, solutions or objectives with minimal, if any, resistance.
WHAT MAKES EFFECTIVE QUESTIONS EFFECTIVE?
In simple terms, the human mind, which is far more powerful than any computer devised by mankind, basically works by continually looking for answers to questions it receives from a variety of sources. No matter what questions are asked, answers are generated at some point. Just as a car runs differently depending upon what type of fuel it uses, the mind runs differently depending upon the kind of questions it is asked to answer. For this reason, we must look at the questions with which we fuel our minds.
A simple exercise is to take ten minutes and write down all of the thoughts that go through your mind. Without judging, write down everything that passes through your mind. This can also be done with a recorder. For ten minutes speak every thought that goes through your mind out loud. Then go back and read what you’ve written, or listen to what you’ve recorded. Notice how much of what went through your mind is in the form of a question. Perhaps the first is “why am I doing this?” of “what am I supposed to get from this?”
When working with an executive team I like to say, “In a moment I’m going to stop talking, raise your hand the moment you catch yourself asking a question”. The hands begin to go up almost immediately. The mind is running on questions constantly. This isn’t good or bad news. This is just a part of how the mind works. The issue is:
The quality of the answers we get in life
are a reflection of
the quality of the questions we run on.
Think for a moment of someone you can count on for almost anything, anytime – a ‘can-do’ person. What are the first questions you hear from them when you ask them to do something? The answer we usually get to that questions is something like, “When do you need it?”
Now think of one of your ‘can’t do-ers’. What are the first questions you hear from them when you want something done? “Why me?”, “Why now?”
These Reactive Thinking 80%ers seem to constantly run on questions like, "What's wrong with this situation?" "How is this going to hurt me?" "How can I avoid being blamed for this?" and "Why does this always happen to me?" Notice that the answers to these questions, which the mind works hard to provide, do not support moving forward in life. Instead, they tend to keep someone trapped right where they are, perpetuating the situation rather than looking for alternatives to that situation.
Questions like these tend to de-energize and dis-empower us and make us defensive and generally nonproductive.
The Creative Thinking 20%ers, on the other hand, tend to run on questions like, "What value can we gain from this situation?" "How can we benefit from this?" "How can we turn this into an opportunity?" and "What can we do to make this a win for everyone?" As we have seen, questions such as these empower and give us information we can use to move forward in life.
In this scenario, therefore, our minds are continually focused on generating forward-moving ideas and solutions. If we then act on these ideas, we move forward, and the results produced from that action empower us to even greater levels.
By utilizing EQs, we consciously choose the kinds of questions that fuel our mind and guide us. Whenever we choose questions that will be most supportive of our continuing growth and success, we interrupt the naturally destructive mindset of Reactive Thinking and force ourselves to think more creatively and effectively. If we consistently provide ourselves – and others – with EQs as a discipline, we will soon become reconditioned in the way we think. In other words, the desired paradigm shift occurs when this new Creative Thinking mode is internalized and becomes automatic. While the effect of this shift is a powerful one for individuals, imagine the synergy of an entire team or organization on EQs provided by leadership.
When Steve Knox was promoted to District Director of the U.S. Customs Service's Philadelphia office, one of the first things he did was to call his new staff together for a meeting.
Anyone who has ever been in the position of getting a new boss can probably relate to how Steve's people felt going into this meeting. Everyone figured he was going to do the reactive "I'm the new boss, here's what I see is wrong, and here's how we are going to start doing things differently" bit. So, the people came in to the meeting apprehensive and prepared to defend themselves with files, charts, "reasons," and excuses.
Instead, Steve used EQs. He asked each manager to share with him and the others the two or three things working the best in their department. Then he asked what they would like to do differently to improve their areas, and how each change would create the desired result. The
team was incredibly energized by this approach and subsequently has grown from this foundation into a very effective team.
In another example, Bob Nelson was promoted to the position of Chief Financial Officer of a multi-billion dollar division of Georgia-Pacific. In his first meeting with his new team he asked, “What do you want to know about me?”, “What do you want me to know about you?”; and, “If you were the person running this department, what are the first two or three things you’d do to get the job done better or easier?”. How long do you feel it took for Bob to be integrated as part of the team?
BENEFITS OF ASKING EFFECTIVE QUESTIONS
EQs provide a vital empowerment bridge from the mindset people currently have to the mindset we want them to possess. EQs effectively address mindset issues in a number of different ways:
• EQs get people to think.
• EQs empower people by allowing them to discover their own answers, thus developing self-responsibility and transference of ownership for the results.
• EQs "mine" the real experts, your people, for their "gold"; better ways to achieve the objectives.
• EQs help people realize, on an ongoing basis, how what they are doing contributes to the whole (the overall objective, the mission or vision).
• EQs develop people who feel fulfilled, satisfied, and valued.
• EQs build positive attitudes and self-esteem in individual members of a team.
• EQs remove blocks and open people up to unexplored possibilities while inviting discovery, creativity, and innovation.
• EQs unlock the untapped potential of an organization by accessing people's "discretionary work effort."
• EQs help determine what it will take to do what has not been done before.
• EQs guide us toward where we want to go while providing value out of where we have been.
- EQs enable leaders to understand what a person or team wants and the conditions upon
which they will buy in to organizational goals.
• EQs involve people in management and decision-making processes, thus generating com- mitment to the solution or answer.
• EQs develop alignment within teams and draw out the optimum performance from individual members and the team as a whole.
• EQs generate alignment with a shared vision or desired outcome.
• EQs create a high-energy, high-trust environment.
• EQs encourage people to identify, clarify, and express their wants or needs.
- EQs encourage people to take risks.
- EQs recondition people from only knowing what to think to knowing how to think.
- EQs connect the ‘what's in it for me’ with what needs to be done.
- EQs nurture deep relationships.
- EQs dissolve resistance to change.
• EQs create a Total Quality and Continuous Improvement Consciousness (TQC) throughout an organization.
QUESTIONS THAT DISEMPOWER/EMPOWER
Questions can be productive, or they can be counterproductive. They can energize people or drain their energy. They can bring out creativity or squelch it. Questions can open our people up and build trust, or they can cause defensiveness. Sometimes we meet someone who asks great questions that we feel eager to answer and that make us feel empowered. Occasionally, we meet someone who asks a lot of questions that somehow make us feel put on the spot, intimidated, and disempowered. They ask questions that are condescending in their nature.
To clarify the difference between an EQ and a question that is less effective or even detrimental to our objectives, let's utilize a now familiar NeFER.
As we've said before, we have a choice of focusing our attention and energy on the results we want to accomplish or on all the reasons we cannot achieve them. When the focus is one the
reasons, we are probably in a defensive or reactive mode and working to assure that we are not blamed for the problems. This disempowering mode drains our energy.
Let's look at some questions to which we can probably relate. Please read them thoroughly, and try to remember time when you might have heard similar ones:
"Why are you behind schedule?"
"What's the problem on this project?"
"Why are you so far behind the other team?"
"What's your problem?"
"Who isn't keeping up?"
"'Who did that?"
"Why did you do that?"
"Who made that decision?"
"Don't you know better than that?"
"Who wants to tell the boss about this?"
What do these questions do for your personal sense of confidence or self-esteem? How do they make you fee1?
Where do they cause your focus to be?
How does this focus affect your ability to find solutions? To create creative enough to find the results you want?
If you were bombarded consistently by these kinds of questions, how would it impact your energy level: How would it affect your attitudes about your work? How would it likely affect your long-term performance and satisfaction?
You may remember unpleasant times when you have heard these questions, times when the
focus was on the back side of the NeFER. You might even remember the feelings you had when the questions were being asked. Thinking about the situation, you might remember being somewhat defensive, low on energy (except possibly the energy of anger) and definitely not focused on what needed to be done to resolve the issues. Many of us might find these questions
to be somewhat threatening, especially if our confidence was a little lacking at that moment, and our attitude and creativity were not at their best. The situation might have left us feeling discouraged.
If after reading the questions you did not relate to any of the feelings or reactions described in the last paragraph, you probably fall into that upper 2%, the Creative Thinkers who are so personally empowered that they cannot even imagine people having problems with such questions. If you fall into this category, we suggest you use EQs to discover how other people relate to the previous set of questions; it could be enlightening.
Many of the disempowering questions some managers ask are not done so maliciously. They don’t set out to have a negative impact on their people. They are simply not aware of the tremendous costs associated with asking these type questions, or the respect they lose from their people by asking them.
Now, let's look at some different questions. Please also read these slowly and thoughtfully, allowing yourself to be aware of how they affect you:
"How do you feel about the project so far?"
"What have you accomplished so far that you are most pleased with?"
"What about that accomplishment do you most appreciate?"
"How would you describe the way you want this project to turn out?"
"What are your specific objectives?"
"Which of those objectives do you think will be easiest to accomplish?"
"Which will be most difficult?"
"What will be the benefits for our customers if you can meet all these objectives? For our company? For our team? For you personally?"
"What key things need to happen to achieve the objective?"
"What kind of support do you need to assure success?"
Notice how this second set of questions is in alignment with the Framework for Continuous Improvement in Chapter 6. They tend to be focused on either what is already working, which is energizing and supportive, or on clarifying the objectives, which creates a clear target or goal. They may also focus on benefits, which is why we want to achieve the objective, or on what needs to be done to move toward the objective, which is the action plan.
All these questions yield responses that support moving forward toward the objectives. By adding the asking element, people get the additional benefit of discovering the answers for themselves. This generates automatic buy-in and commitment to the solutions they find.
Whether people become part of the problem or the solution relates directly to the way leaders ask questions. If we focus on the back side of the NeFER – the “Reasons,” “What’s not working?” and “What’s wrong?” – these questions threaten self-esteem, and people tend to get mired in the problems. In this defensive mode people are more likely to see themselves as part of the problem rather than the source of solutions.
If we spotlight the “Results,” “What’s working?” “What’s right?” and “What do we want more of?” side of the NeFER, the questions are encouraging and we point team members toward results and solutions. Since we get what we focus upon, we move closer and closer to the objectives, and people become part of the solution.
What do these questions do for your personal sense of confidence or self-esteem? How do they make you feel?
How does this focus affect your ability to be creative enough to find solutions? To create the results you want?
If you were consistently asked these kinds of questions how would it impact your energy level? How would it affect your attitude about work? How would it likely affect your long-term performance and satisfaction?
On which side of the NeFER do these questions focus?
How would the two sets of questions impact your people differently?
FUNDAMENTALS OF EFFECTIVE QUESTIONS
What makes one question more effective than another lies in its essence, and that essence cannot be defined by a set of guidelines that we can follow. They are more a function of where people are coming from in asking them than in what is said. Yet, we can describe some of the most common characteristics of EQs.
- EQS ARE OPEN-ENDED.
Our people are the real experts about our organizations and what needs to be done in them. They have the solutions; we just need a way to access these solutions. We can do so by encouraging the normally lazy human mind to think and our people to express their thoughts and ideas.
Questions that call for a "yes" or "no" answer, called closed-ended questions, tend to discourage people from thinking and talking and encourage them to give only limited information. Worse, they limit the possible choice of answers to two. And these two answers are basically judgments. When asked to make a judgment about something, we usually close up, rather than open up, for fear of having our answer judged in return.
Notice the contrast between questions like, “Do you like your job?” or “Is the project going well?” and questions like, “What do you like about your job?” “What aspects of the project are going well?” or “What aspects need additional work?” Or, “do we have any options?” vs. “What options do we have?”.
What are the differences you notice in these two sets of questions?
From which set of questions are the answers to be more informative.
The second set of questions are open-ended. Open-ended questions give people the opportunity to search deeply within themselves for possibilities rather than making “yes” or “no” judgements. These questions encourage people to think and express themselves and to explain how they feel, what they want or what they think. They also invite creativity and empowerment.
This is not suggesting that there are no effective yes/no questions. A very effective yes/no question is to ask someone you’ve called if this is a good time to talk.
- EQS FOCUS ON THE FORWARD SIDE
OF THE NeFER.
EQs generally focus on the objective of increasing the amount of energy and attention directed to where we want to go and to what we want more of. An organization’s Net Forward Energy
Ratio will increase dramatically, as well as naturally, as more and more people become masters at the art of asking EQs. So, to positively direct the energy of our people, we focus on “What do we need to do to get to where we want to be?” rather than on “What’s wrong with where we are?”
Review the two different sets of questions offered on pages 143 and 145. In what ways do they differ in terms of which side of the NeFER they focus on?
What differences are there in impact on attitude, energy, feelings, and performance between the two focuses?
Which one is more effective?
- EQS ASK "WHAT" OR “HOW”
INSTEAD OF "WHY."
"Why" questions, though they often appear to get to the heart of the matter, seem to generate instant resistance and defensiveness. Most of us have painful memories of times when people used "why" questions to build a case against us. There seems to be a natural reaction to these questions, feeling that someone asking us a "why" question is challenging what we did, trying to make us wrong. We feel we have to justify what we did. We might naturally become defensive and shut down. When we shut down, the creativity needed to move forward with solutions is lost.
A "what" or "how" question generally encourages openness and lowers resistance. Also, questions that begin with "what" will usually encourage multiple responses. To find the best solutions, a series of "what" or "how" questions can prove invaluable. Keep asking, "What else?" until it is uncomfortable to do so. Then, do it one more time. Often, the real gems come late in the process as a person’s thinking goes deeper and deeper.
"How" questions will generate similar responses as “what" questions. "How" questions usually elicit only single responses; however, when you follow up with multiple "What else?" questions, you will receive multiple answers.
If the questions being asked are of a "what's wrong" variety, we tend to close down and become defensive. The only way to answer them is to own up to being part of the problem. When the questions are of the "what's working now?" and "what do we want to do more of?" type, formulating an answer supports progress toward a solution. Then people feel more a part of the solution and safe enough to open up and offer their ideas.
Notice the difference in the "why" and “what" questions asked earlier in this chapter on pages 143 and 145. What is the difference in impact on attitude, energy, feelings, and performance between the two focuses?
Which are more effective and how?
Note: Even after 18 years of practicing ourselves, we still find ourselves having to step back occasionally and rephrase a question we’ve asked. It is essential for leaders to develop an awareness of when a question has generated defensiveness.
- EQS HELP PEOPLE LEARN THROUGH
THE PROCESS OF ANSWERING.
In many circumstances, Enlightened Leaders ask EQs not only so that they can hear the answers given to them but so the persons asked can hear their own answers and, thereby, gain clarity for themselves or internalize something they have grasped only intellectually.
Indeed, the answers that are most effective for people are their own. When people are told answers, they may understand them intellectually, but they will still need to clarify and internalize them for themselves. Our natural resistance to someone else's answers or ways of doing things – no matter how good or logical they may be – may, prevent us from ever internalizing them. The internalization happens much faster when people's answers originate from themselves.
An example of the power of questions has to do with a major insurance company whose management team noticed that the average salesperson’s sales dropped off dramatically after 18 months regardless of the training received.* They did intensive research to uncover what caused this phenomenon. Numerous ideas were suggested about the reasons for this consistent decrease in sales, including one that always gets a good laugh – “Maybe it’s because they ran out of relatives and friends.”
The results of the research provided far more interesting information, however. During the early months after training, the salespeople would stick closely to the company’s recommended approach of asking prospective customers many thought-provoking questions and carefully listening to their answers. They would typically spend 45 minutes or an hour on this process. In fact, they became better and better at asking EQs that generated much thought and discussion with the client. This questioning process was also very supportive of the client getting clear about their future financial needs.
Right around 18 months in their development, an interesting thing happened to many of the salespeople. By this point, they had heard nearly all the possible answers from prospective
clients. They had become proficient at sizing up the personal and financial situation of the people they interviewed. Where it used to take 45 minutes or an hour to determine a customer's insurance needs, most could do it now in five or 10 minutes.
So, they stopped asking questions and they stopped listening. In fact, they moved into a "sales mode" very quickly and began doing more talking and a lot less listening.
There was one problem: Prospective customers did not feel comfortable with this approach.
A relationship did not have time to develop between the client and the salesperson, and neither gained value from the brief discussion. Sales invariably dropped off, while the salespeople wondered why their sales figures plummeted for no apparent reason. Then, they would get discouraged, making selling a more difficult task since they were focused on their fear of rejection or failure. Lowered sales impacted their self-confidence, and a downward performance spiral was in full gear.
What is the message? EQs build relationships among people. They are a gift to the person
being asked them, just as the answers are a gift to the person asking them. When questions are no longer asked, for whatever reason, value is not derived and relationships do not develop to the same extent. EQs are as much or more for the responder as for the asker.
Typically in life, we enjoy the moments when we find clarity in our own explanations.
These moments energize and empower us, because we see that we have the ability to find solutions on our own. Asking EQs gives leaders – in the above example, the salesperson is the leader – a method for generating such insights rather than waiting for those rare occasions when they occur spontaneously. Thus, EQs provide a tool for managing clarity and enhancing creativity as well as empowerment.
Remember a time when you were explaining something to someone for the first time or even the tenth time. In either case, as you were explaining the concept got clearer for you than it ever had before. How did the new-found clarity make you feel?
How was your energy affected?
Note: Often the process of probing for deeper understanding and clarity requires more than one question. We will address this later in this chapter.
- EQS ARE ‘YOU’ – ORIENTED.
EQs place the focus on the person answering. They ask: "What do you think we should do?"
"What is your opinion?" "How do you feel about doing it this way?" "What was significant about that to you?"
No wrong answers exist for YOU – oriented questions, because the answers are true for
whoever is answering them. By the very nature of the question, the answers can only be correct. This factor removes the threat people may feel with other types of questions, particularly when there is no judgment about the responses. There is tremendous power in acceptance of people, and we send acceptance messages when we ask questions that cannot have wrong answers.
By asking YOU – oriented questions, we send a clear message about the importance of what
each person thinks and feels. This builds cooperation, trust, and a climate that fosters deeply felt solutions.
- EQS GIVE THE PERSON ANSWERING CREDIT
FOR KNOWING THE ANSWERS,
WHETHER THEY DO OR NOT.
In the typical business environment, many managers assume that people don't have the answers. Therefore, they cannot understand why questions should be asked at all. In such an environment, inquiries, at best, tend to be condescending and intimidating.
However, if we assume that people within the team really do have solutions and we ask to hear them, it is amazing how the creativity begins to flow. After working with hundreds of leaders throughout this country and around the world, the one statement we hear from our clients the most often – almost without exception – is: "I had no idea my people know as much as they do."
- EQs ARE OFTEN MULTILEVELED.
When asking EQs, we start with broad queries and move toward narrower ones. This additional probing steers people toward solutions. For example, we might start with this
"What were you able to do today better than you have in the past?"
And then follow it with these:
"What allowed you to do it better today?"
"What did you learn about being able to do it better that you can apply to other areas of your work?"
Or, we can start narrow and move to wider applications, such as:
"What are you doing personally that is working to produce better-quality widgets?"
"Where else could you use that approach?"
Beginning inquiries should be easily answered and should produce more general information. They should be asked to empower a person rather than to force them into answers that may result in their looking or feeling stupid or inferior.
It is especially important to use a number of multileveled questions to help people connect with the personal benefits of their answers – the "what's-in-it-for-me" factor. A supervisor might ask a new employee, "What did you learn new about your job today?" That's a good EQ, but when multileveled questions are used, the answerer receives more and more value. For instance:
"How does that fit in with what else you have learned here already?"
"In what way will that allow you to do even better tomorrow?"
"What are you most pleased about, personally, in learning that?"
"In what other aspects of your job could what you have learned be used?"
Caution: We need to be careful not to phrase multileveled questions so they sound canned or appear to lead the answerer into a trap. How long does it take for you to realize your being set up with a question you’ve been asked?
- EQs SHOW PEOPLE THAT THEIR LEADER IS OPEN AND WILLING TO HEAR THEIR ANSWERS – WHATEVER THEY MAY BE.
It is important for leaders to listen patiently to the answers to their EQs and to accept whatever they hear. This is a test of a leader's openness and willingness to listen. Asking Effective Questions requires Effective Listening. Hoow long does it take for you to realize that you are not being listened to? In initial stages of asking EQs, people may test us to see if we really want to hear whatever they have to say. Therefore, our reaction to every response is important. By demonstrating interest and openness and developing more effective relationships.
To really mine the gold within an organization, leaders have to be open-minded. Be prepared to receive responses that are different than expected. Also, sometimes leaders are already clear and set on the solutions they think should be utilized – even before asking others for their solutions. If not cautious they may, therefore, negate the answers they get to their EQs. We can get stuck on our own pet remedies and not hear the solutions offered by, and asked for from the people who are closest to the problems we are seeking to solve. By being open-minded as we ask EQs, we might find that our people discover an even better solution than our own, or they might come up with the same idea. If they do, they will own it and make it work.
Whose ideas are people most likely to buy-in to with the least resistance?
- EQS HELP LEADERS BECOME EFFECTIVE LISTENERS.
To paraphrase the timeless real estate principle, “location, location, and location,” it is important to note that three of the most important factors in asking EQs are to “listen, listen, and listen.” In the process of asking questions, we naturally tend to listen selectively while our minds race to the next question we want to ask. In doing so, we invariably miss something being said. We must learn to listen thoroughly until the response is absolutely complete before moving to the next question or level.
Many clients report that before gaining clarity on the value of EQs they did at least 80% of the talking and only 20% of the listening. Those who have learned the importance of asking EQs do 80% of the listening and only 20% of the talking – with astounding results. This represents a clear and dramatic shift toward Enlightened Leadership.
- EQS ARE FRAMED TO FIT THE SITUATION
AND CLARIFY WHAT IS WANTED.
Framing, or setting up EQs appropriately, can be as important as the question itself. Framing helps set the tone or intention of the question. For example, "To gain a better understanding of how we stand on our project, let's first discuss the aspects of it with which we are most pleased." The basic question is, "With which aspects of the project are we most pleased?" The framing is the first part, "To gain a better understanding of how we stand with our project. . ." This sets the stage for the question itself. It helps people understand our motive and reduces their defensiveness.
Framing can also be useful when we are not clear about how to ask a question. For example, you may say, "I'm not sure how to ask this question, but. . ." and then ask the question the best way you know how. This is a way of defusing any issue that might arise from the way you ask a difficult question.
- EQs HELP LEADERS CONTINUALLY LOOK
FOR WAYS TO EMPOWER THEIR PEOPLE
AND TO MAKE THEM FEEL VALUED.
Leaders asking EQs must have as a guiding principle a question for themselves: "How can I help this individual gain more clarity or value in the process of answering the question?" "How can I balance the initial aspects of nurturing the people and creating the results?" We must remember that people have been asked questions in a negative mode most of their lives, so answering questions has probably not been very rewarding. Therefore, be patient as you change questions into an expression of trust, interest, openness, and solution-seeking.
TIMING IS EVERYTHING
As important as what we ask may be when we ask. For need to learn to be aware of the
this reason, leaders also need to learn to be aware of the timing of their EQs. To make this point clear, let us look at an example.
We were going out to lunch with the executive vice president of a major health insurance provider in California. While we were waiting for the elevator, one of his top managers walked by. He asked how her team was doing that week. She replied that their productivity was up 20% again. He congratulated her as she walked off. Then he turned back to us and said that this was the third week in a row that her team had increased their productivity by about 20%.
We couldn’t pass up the opportunity and asked him what would have been different if she had said that her productivity was down – even as little as 2%. His response was immediate: “I’d have called a meeting to find out why!”
Isn’t that the way it usually is? Don’t we call the meetings to find and fix the problems? Yet, the best time to call the meeting is while the team is on a roll. Instead of questions about what is wrong, imagine the power of asking questions like:
"What are you doing that’s allowed you to increase your productivity so much?"
"What are you doing differently that is causing that to happen?"
"What is working that we can apply to other areas of the organization?"
"What are you most please with personally about what you have been able to accomplish?"
"What could you do to continue this trend?"
"What have you done to contribute to the team's success that most pleased you?"
"What could other members of the team do more of, better or differently to help you do an even better job?"
"What could I, as the team leader, do more of, better or differently that would help you do an even better job?"
The difference would be great between the way this team would feel returning to their jobs compared to the way they would feel leaving a typical "what's-the-problem?" meeting. And most of that difference could be summed up in one word – empowerment.
A STRUCTURE FOR EFFECTIVE QUESTIONS
In this chapter we merged the concept of questioning with focus to create EQs – "The Ultimate Empowerment Tool." When we express EQs in a generic form using the Framework for Leadership (or Continuous Renewal/Continuous Improvement, etc.) as a guide, we generate a structured set of five questions that are often useful in accomplishing our objective of the moment.
We introduced the five-step Framework for Continuous Renewal in Chapter 6 as a particularly powerful focus tool. It is placed on the following page for review:
Framework for Leadership
1. Celebrate the small successes you are already achieving.
2. Research extensively what you are doing to generate these successes.
3. Continually reclarify (refocus on) in great tail the specific objectives.
4. Help all parties (customers, shareholders, the organization, team members, ourselves) understand the benefits of achieving the objectives.
5. Continually search for what you could do more of, better, or differently, to move closer to the objectives.
Below are the results of creating generic questions that follow the above framework:
Structured Effective Questions
1. What is already working?
2. What makes it work?
3. What is the objective?
4. What are the benefits of achieving this objective?
5. What can we do to move closer to our objective?
Notice how these questions align with the statement version of the Framework for Leadership. By putting the 5 – Step Framework in question format, we gain the additional advantages of asking instead of telling. This set of five EQs is effective in many different circumstances.
Like the Framework, questions 1 and 2 are empowering. They energize and open people up to their natural creativity. They encourage and nurture people.
Question 3 provides the opportunity to clarify (reclarify) the specific, detailed objective(s). At this point, a gap is created between questions 1 and 2 together and question 3. It is this gap that we want to fill. When the gap is filled, the objective is met.
Question 4 helps us get in touch with the “why” of achieving the objective – the ‘what’s in it for me’. This is the point at which people buy in to achieving the objective.
Questions 1 through 4 prepare people psychologically and creatively to address what needs to be done to begin closing the gap. Question 5 generates the action plan that leads to a successfully accomplished objective.
Remember, the questions need to be framed and reworded based on the specific situation. This particular structure, this series of conceptual questions, can be utilized for many different purposes, including problem-solving, vision-building, professional selling, and project review. Chapter 11 discusses some real-world examples of using EQs. For much more depth in looking at the Framework for Leadership, see “Leadership Make Simple” released in August of 2006.
THE MOST IMPORTANT ELEMENT
As we’ve mentioned earlier in this chapter, it is part of human nature to quest. Just as our mind is fueled by queries, every organization runs on questions. Our years of success have clearly demonstrated that one of the quickest and simplest ways to determine the health of an organization is to listen to the questions their meetings run on. As leaders, we have the choice to settle for the questions naturally supplied by a somewhat negatively oriented culture or consciously replace them with questions that move our people effectively toward our objectives.
The examples we have collected through our work with clients provide overwhelming evidence of the power of asking EQs, yet EQs cannot be asked or taught merely as a “technique.” Another aspect of the questioning process is just as important as the “technique” or wording or framing. This critical aspect of Effective Questions is the intent behind the question. No matter what words we use in a question, there are additional levels of communication that people pick up on. For instance, nonverbal information is communicated through our eyes, gestures, facial expressions, and tone. People will sense whether we are trying to support them in growing and being their best or trying to make them wrong about the situation.
Think back to a time when something was not going well in your organization and you were upset about it. Were you trying to support the team in being their best in the future, or were you really trying to find someone to blame
How do you think the team perceived your intention in that situation?
How would their perception of your intention affect their ability to move forward in resolving the issues?
Because the intention behind a question is so important, EQs provide an empowerment tool
only for those who are themselves already empowered. Indeed, it is not just the act of asking questions itself that empowers. The attitude of the person asking the question determines their effectiveness. The intention behind the question is critical, and a truly empowered leader will have a forward-seeking intention.
Remember, empowerment is a place to come from, an attitude or mindset, rather than something we do. We get a sense of someone's attitude in their communications. It's more than just the words they are using; it is a feeling, an essence. People sense where we are coming from. They know whether a communication is intended to "get" them or to help them. By being clear about your intent to bring value to an individual or team, you can use EQs to empower others while empowering yourself. As you make the gift of these valuable questions, you will be rewarded according to your intention.
Think of the different intentions you could have when asking a question as innocent as, "What do you mean by that?"
What intention would you tend to have when you are personally empowered at the moment of asking?
What intention might you have when you are upset about something?
What would be the effect of the question in the two scenarios?
Awareness provides the imperative element necessary for asking EQs. Awareness means knowledge, realization, consciousness, being informed. When asking a question, we must be conscious of, or sensitive to, whether our question brings value to the person being asked or whether it costs (hurts) them to answer.
Since intent is so important, with our clients, we introduce EQs as a tool only after the people have been through an empowerment process and a paradigm shift in awareness has taken place in the team. When people are empowered, they can be very effective with the questions they ask, and the words they use aren't as important. Their attitude says more than their words. The effectiveness of the questions depends upon the self-empowerment level of the person using them.
The key to renewal is the personal empowerment of the critical mass of people in an organization. Once leadership has become empowered, power can cascade rapidly down through an organization. EQs provide a tool for Enlightened Leaders to transfer this empowerment to their people.
USING EFFECTIVE QUESTIONS
Reactive Thinking 80%ers are naturally focused on what's not working, what's wrong, or how they are going to lose. This focus on the back side of the NeFER is ineffective in getting to where we want to go – to the goal. Yet, this way of seeing life is a fundamental state of mind of many people. To move them up significantly on the empowerment curve to Creative Thinking requires shifting this state of mind.
EQs are the "how to’s" we have been promising. Asking EQs with an individual or team that is predominantly reactive interrupts their conditioned thinking patterns. In fact, at first this line of questioning might surprise them so much they don't even hear the question as it was asked.
You might ask, "Pertaining to this particular project, what aspects of it are working best?" Don't be surprised if the answer starts out with, "The problem is. . . " If it does, just hear them out, acknowledge what was said, and re-ask the question – with sensitive reframing, of course.
In the empowerment process, what we are trying to do is support people in establishing new, effective thinking patterns to replace old, ineffective ones. The more we ask EQs, the more easily they can think in this new, forward-thinking direction.
As it becomes easier, more natural, for them, they begin to appreciate the different feeling of these questions and of their responses. They become aware of the value of this way of thinking and how much more pleasurable it is.
They notice they have more creativity, and they feel better about themselves, and what they are doing. Their self-esteem is enhanced and attitudes are positively impacted. At some point the pleasure of the new way of thinking is so strong they become clear internally (perhaps subconsciously) that they want more of whatever this is.
When this feeling is internalized, they experience a paradigm shift in their way of thinking. Once this shift occurs, they will never go back permanently to their old way of thinking. Yes, they will slip occasionally, but the new awareness of the way it can be will help them keep coming back to this more joyful and effective paradigm. Be aware of how quickly they will begin asking these same questions of others themselves.
1. Most organizations can make paradigm shifts literally
2. The shift begins when we recognize the need to dig below the surface, to touch the real issues, and to uncover the "what's-in-it-for-me?" channel, the one many people are tuned into.
3. The single-most valuable empowerment tool within any renewing organization is skillfully asked Effective Questions (EQs).
4. Leaders will succeed quicker and easier in empowering their team members to the degree they become masters at asking EQs and effectively listening.
5. Structured Effective Questions are a five-step framework for focusing and aligning people's energy toward achieving the organization's objectives. They balance the critical aspects of nurturing people and creating results.
6. Just as important as the way Structured Effective Questions are framed, is the intent behind the questions. The leader must he empowered and clear that the intent of the questions is to support the person or team in finding their own solutions.
You cannot teach a man anything. You can only
help him discover it within himself.
Italian Astronomer and Physicist (1564-1642)