Living In The Question

My curiosity about what causes people to be at their best led me to the leadership development field and to work for Kurt and Patricia Wright at Clear Purpose Management. Although I worked with them for a relatively short time, some of the concepts they taught left a lasting impression on me.

The cornerstone of the work there was about the distinctions in questions and the impact they have in the results we are able or not able to produce.

During this time, I realized how much the questions I had been conditioned to ask myself (for example, What is wrong with me? Why can't I do anything right?) were what was causing many of the obstacles in my life. This insight was profound and I began to ask myself and others different questions.

My career in leadership development continued with the focus, what makes an effective leader? Leaders that tended to be most inspirational and have the best results asked the best questions, had higher levels of awareness and made better decisions - they were enlightened.

The body of work that I still teach today became known as Enlightened Leadership. My then partner, Ed Oakley and I co-authored Enlightened Leadership: Getting to the Heart of Change.

For me, enlightened leadership has two meanings.

First to be enlightened is to ‘turn on the lights’; to raise one's awareness; to begin to see options other than reacting in the same way over and over. This is especially true regarding the awareness of what questions a leader asks.

The second part of what it means to be an enlightened leader is to ‘lighten the load’. So much of the stress and effort experienced today is caused by our conditioning. For instance, when I first had a leadership role, I did what had been modeled for me. - Told people what to do, how to do it and pointed out when how they were doing it was wrong. That first leadership role did not go well.

I have come to realize that my mind is a question-generating machine. Pay attention to yours and my bet is that you'll have the same result. Since I am always running on questions (consciously or unconsciously), my intention is to choose ones that move towards what I want with the least stress and effort.

What's next?

How can I best achieve my goal?

What will work best this time, in this set of circumstances?

Is this (action) the right thing to do now?

A natural progression of this intention was to begin questioning those things that are taken for granted, i.e.: the things we have always done or the way we do it.

I refer to this as Living In The Question - using questions to create positive results, flow and energy.

My latest book, The Missing Piece in Leadership, covers the evolution of thinking and the work we do at, Inc.

It is in the spirit of Living In The Question that I wanted to write this blog. The purpose of this blog is to enhance the learning from the book and to build on the learning by continuing to ask,

How can we (I) create more of the results we (I) want without stress and effort?

I am excited to see what the answers are and what evolves from them!

At second glance it is truly about the ‘art of leading up’, yet it still feels right with the title above.

The more consistently successful leaders already understand this art. They have answers to the question, “How do i get more of what I want from the people above me on the chain?”

Here’s one way I’ve learned over the years. Please share the ones you’ve learned with others through this blog.

Mine has to do with that concept introduced in the new book, “The Missing Piece in Leadership”.
The concept referred to is, managing the listening you’re speaking into. I first heard this expression from Dennis Wagner explaining why he thought the work we do was so impactful in so short a time.

Dennis said, “You manage the listening you’re speaking into first.” (After over three decades in the transformation in thinking field, Dennis Wagner is still on top of my list of naturally effective leaders.)


Thinking about Father's Day, hence fathers, this morning brought back memories of a letter I had written to my Dad a number of years ago.

I wrote the letter for me, my Dad had passed a number of years earlier. there was always something i wanted to say, and hadn't. the letter was triggered by the movie, "Field of Dreams".

There's a scene where the Kevin Costner character first talks with his father for the first time. Costner asks his father if he'd like to plat catch. i have no memory of ever playing catch with my Dad.

Actually, I have no memory of playing anything with my Dad. He was a pretty serious guy. He didn't learn to play until

This letter isn't something I normally share - it feels like time.

Dear Dad,

I love you. When everything else I write here is said and done, that is the essence of what I want to say. And, there is something else I feel a deep need to express.

The Answer is in the Room

A basic premise of all of our work is that whatever the issue or challenge, there is already an answer available ‘in the room’ – within your own people.  Even more basic than that, what it takes to fully take advantage of the answers available through your people is the realization that the answer is in the room - whichever room you are in. 

As a leader, your mindset; how you approach and look at the issue or challenge, will have the greatest impact on the quality of answers available to you.

The example below demonstrates how quickly the power of asking the right questions can impact an outcome.  In this case, I asked the questions but with AMP (awareness, mindfulness and presence) and some practice, we as leaders can begin to ask ourselves the questions.

 Two co-directors of a project team were struggling.  The project was behind and their stress level was increasing rapidly.

Having taught leadership for over two decades I was amused to hear my friend’s grandson declare: “I don’t want to be a leader”! He had just completed a weekend retreat for teens and was told by the event director that he possessed natural leadership qualities.

I asked him a question that everyone in a leadership role might pause to consider…

”What does being a leader mean?”

He didn’t hesitate before saying “I don’t want to have to be the one to tell people what to do and then make sure that they do it!” This young man’s definition is a common perception of what leadership is; and, thankfully it is not an accurate one. So what does being a leader mean?

Throughout the course of my career I have met very few really poor leaders. However, I have met many in leadership roles who make their own job harder every day because of some bad habits.