This summer we enjoyed a family trip to Greece. It is a land of boundless beauty and tremendous thinkers. While touring the Acropolis our guide mentioned that while scheduling its restoration, time was built into each day for workers to spend time thinking! Imagine that happening almost anywhere else in the world.
Greece’s history is built upon the minds of the world’s greatest thinkers. One of them is the Greek philosopher, Socrates. Even though he’s 2,500 hundred years my senior we are still on a first name basis. Okay, he only had one name.
Today, Socrates is alive and well in highly effective leaders. His Socratic method of questioning is a timely and timeless leadership tool for engaging teams and nurturing critical thinking. Asking questions is both selfless and self-serving. It demonstrates interest in your team while providing you with insights into their world – their motivations, passions, challenges, assumptions, and aspirations.
Once you ask a question, make sure you listen. Don’t ask if you won’t listen or you will be on the fast track to building employee cynicism.
Highly effective leaders listen at least 50 percent of the time, and most of the remaining time they are asking questions.
Keep your questions simple by asking things like:
- How can I help you?
- What type of project gets you really excited?
- When do you feel like you are in the zone?
- What’s one thing you would change to improve your work process?
- What’s your vision for this project?
- What would you like to do less of?
So, the next time you are tempted to tell your team what to do, take a lesson from my friend Socrates and ask what they think instead.