This is an opinion piece. Our arguments in favor of embracing HR Agility, and instilling a culture where asking questions of ourselves and our teams is a daily habit, are based on our professional experience. None of the links bellow are affiliate links.
Agility is about asking all the questions.
As a leader, you may feel uneasy about asking questions you don’t have the answers to. The inclination to hide vulnerabilities from your peers and not appear weak in your position within the team is understandable.
Traditional management structure has instilled in us a perception of the role of the leader as the one with all the answers. This has backed us into a corner. Because questions that go unasked, and answered are opportunities lost. But to encourage people to ask questions, we must be brave enough to show them how.
At Agile & Co. we try not to linger on all the opportunities we let pass us by in our younger years because we were afraid to raise our hands and made it plain to everyone around us that we did not know and needed clarification.
But, there comes a point in your leadership evolution, when you must get comfortable with the uncomfortable idea of asking questions you genuinely want to find the answers to, and involve your teams in the search for answers.
What does it take to become better at asking questions?
- Courage. To ask the difficult or challenging questions, the out of the box question, and the seemingly obvious questions, the questions that others might be thinking but are not willing or ready to ask.
- Empathy. To ask questions in a way that makes others feel safe and understood, the questions that show open vulnerability and connect with people on a human and emotional level.
- Practice. To make asking questions a habit, part of the living-culture of your team and organization.
Let’s develop our courage, empathy, and practice by reflecting on these three big ideas…
Big Idea #1.
Asking Questions Communicates Confidence
If we establish that everybody is not willing or ready to raise their hands, speak up, and ask their burning questions, those who do are consequently seen by peers and teammates as highly confident people.
At the end of the day, asking the questions and setting the creativity and ingenuity of your team free to find the answer is the mark of a confident leader.Tweet
People expect leaders to have questions, and leaders must question everything… trends, events and changes in the market and the business ecosystem, to allocate or advocate for resources, and move the innovation needle forward.
But the agile leader does not keep her questions to herself. And that takes us to big idea #2…
Big Idea #2.
Asking Questions Refines Vision and Goals
You should be asking questions to your team; questions about the work you are doing and about the backlog of work to do. You should be asking questions about your short and long-term goals.
You should be asking questions about every new piece of information you come across, and about every old assumption you are holding onto. You should be asking questions about your team and organization, and about your competition.
These questions should come in your daily check-in meetings, daily reviews, or weekly retrospectives. These questions must be pinned to your APM board and be part of your team slack, or collaboration platform of choice.
Your vision and goals should be malleable enough to adapt to some unexpected answers, while still keep you and your team moving in the “right” direction, guided by fundamental principles or the aim to provide the ultimate solution to your customer, client, stakeholder, employee.
This essentially brings us to big idea #3…
Big Idea #3.
Asking Questions Showcases Agility
As the leader, you voice the vision and paint the picture for others along the way, but ownership of the vision must be felt by all. Every member of the team must feel a sense of connection to the vision and understand how his individual and collective contribution is reflected in that vision.
A leader that is willing to ask questions about the shared vision and the set goals, and is willing to adjust and reformulate that vision and those goals from the input of his team, shows a level of agility which in VUCA times, as in times of relative tranquility, provide them (the team) with a sense of adventure and discovery.
A leader who embraces the power of questioning, as a tool for self-discovery, the discovery of her team, and the ongoing rediscovery (realignment) of their vision, purpose and responsibility to their stakeholders, has an invaluable agile tactic in her tool kit.
Problem-solving skills & creative thinking are cultivated by the practice of asking questions.
Asking a question with a forward-thinking perspective allows leaders, with their teams, to make collective projections and more accurate predictions about innovations, and ultimately improve the quality of the products and services the team or organization provides.
Asking questions implies a willingness to look lost or foolish now, in other to generate insights, gain access to new information, and make well-informed decisions, before the investment has been made, the product has been launched or the service has been given, with an unremarkable response, underachieving or even unprofitable results.
Let’s loosen up and embrace the power of questions.
As a leader, start getting into the habit of following your curiosity. Start your running list of questions and take them with you to every daily check-in, sprint review, or retrospective. Remember to ask questions with empathy. Develop a inquisitive culture and feed the inquisitive mind around you.
Keep actively “throwing” good and great questions to your team and peers, and listen actively to other people’s questions (teammates, peers, leaders, customers,) adding them to your list.
Next Step: What’s the question at the top of your self-assessment list? Tweet it to us under our tweet for this post here!
Agile & Co. is an HR & Comms. Consulting Firm, with a focus on People & Culture that embraces an agile mindset and management style. It serves small businesses, start-ups, and entrepreneurs, offering coaching, mentoring, or consultation, to assist in the co-creation, development, and transformation of their organizational flow and people experience, in a humanized, collaborative and agile way. Follow @myagilehr #agileforbiz #agileforlife