Lead by questions


Ask more than you tell.

There are basically two ways to lead: you can tell people what to do, or you can ask them their opinion. People tend to appreciate being listened to and getting their opinions across. To lead by questions and listen may be basic stuff for any leader. Yet, why is it so hard for many entrepreneurs?

As a general rule, it seems to be good to listen more than you talk. And when you do talk, it does not hurt to repeat what you have just heard to show that you are listening. To lead by asking questions has many advantages.

First, if you accept that you don’t have perfect knowledge about everything and how to solve every issue, you will learn something from asking others. There is always something you have not thought about, a perspective you have not considered.

Second, by asking questions you involve others in problems and processes and make people more motivated than they would have been just by being told how it is. You make people think.

Third, it lets others be seen, which is also a driver for motivation. That leads to another useful rule: ask anybody about what they think, not only your usual set of colleagues, advisers or friends. You will spread motivation and engagement, while getting surprising answers.

You are always entitled to ask so-called ‘dumb’ questions – questions that appear to be straightforward, humble and simple but are tricky because they go straight to the heart of the matter. ‘This sounds all great, and I’m not really an expert on online advertising. Excuse a very dumb question, but why would anyone click on this ad?’ Just be cautious not to come across as arrogant or aggressive. That’s not the point. The point is to lead forward in a constructive and involving way.