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Summary: The author contends that one of the most effective, least understood and seldom used leadership tools is the question mark. Here is a systematic way to use the question mark in your daily leadership activities that will enable you to be a much more effective leader.
Boost Your Leadership Skills By Disciplining Yourself In The Way Of The Question Mark
by Brent Filson
I'm often asked to come in to organizations and give a motivational speech to their employees. I reply that I'm not a motivational speaker. Never have been. Never will be. Don't want to be. I do something else. I teach their people how to become motivational leaders. That's a far more productive endeavor.
The concept and application of motivation are misunderstood in most organizations. The motivational industry is based on a fundamental contradiction; because the focus of motivation is misplaced. After all, leaders (salespeople included) should be motivated. If they aren't, they shouldn't be leaders.
Here's where the focus should be: not on the leaders themselves but on the people they lead. Can those leaders transfer their motivation to other people so those people are as motivated as they are about the challenges they face?
Furthermore: Can those people who "catch" the motivation of their leaders then go out and motivate others -- and those others go out themselves and motivate still others ... and on and on?
Finally, can people at each phase of this "cascading of cause leaders" translate motivation into action that achieves results -- and not just average results but more results faster on a continual basis?
All my books, articles, courses, seminars, workbooks and interviews are based on that simple sequence of ideas.
I have written many articles on motivation and how to transfer your motivation to others.
But there is another way of transforming your motivation to others that doesn't take much explaining. It's surprisingly simple, easy to use, and effective. Yet few leaders I've encountered use it, and those who use it, don't use it well.
It's the Way of the Question Mark. A "way" is a course of life one undertakes to advance in a particular discipline.
So it is with the Way of the Question Mark. It is not simply a technique; you'll find it is actually a disciplined course of life. (I've been using it for years and am still a long way from mastering it. Because the question mark is often particularly appropriate in a highly charged emotional situation. However, in such situations, when strong emotions are getting the better of me, it takes practice and discipline to step back, gather my thoughts, and ask a question.)
Practicing the Way of the Question Mark can enhance your relationships with the people you lead so you get a lot more results as a leader.
From now on in all your leadership endeavors, make a conscious effort to put a question mark at what would otherwise be declarative sentences.
Asking the question rather than using a declarative is usually more effective because it gets people reflecting upon their situation. After all, we can't motivate anyone to do anything. They have to motivate themselves. And they best motivate themselves when they reflect on their character and their situation. The question prompts people to answer, and when they are answering, they may engage in such reflection. You may not like the answer; but often their answer, no matter what it is, is better in terms of advancing results than your declaration. Also, their answering the question may prompt them to think they have come up with a good idea. People are less enamored of your great ideas than they are of their ideas, even if those ideas are simply average.
For instance, your organization needs to have people to from point A to point B. An order leader might say, "Go from A to B."
Practicing the Way, one might ask: "Tell me what you think about going from A to B?" or "What's the best way for you to go from A to B?" or "Tell me how I can support you going from A to B?" or "How will you take leadership of others going from A to B?"
Mind you, I'm not talking about pandering to people's whims. I'm talking motivation, motivating people to get more results faster on a continual basis. (In fact, you can't order people to get more results faster continually. Only motivated people can do it.) I'm talking about challenging people to undertake extraordinary things, to be better than they think they are.
The question mark, as opposed to the simple declarative, opens up a world of results-producing possibilities. And it's a world predicated on their choices.
Make the Way of the Question Mark your way. Discipline yourself to ask questions rather than make statements. You'll start getting more results.
2005 © The Filson Leadership Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
About the Author
The author of 23 books, Brent Filson's recent books are, THE LEADERSHIP TALK: THE GREATEST LEADERSHIP TOOL and 101 WAYS TO GIVE GREAT LEADERSHIP TALKS. He has been helping leaders of top companies worldwide get audacious results. Sign up for his free leadership e-zine and get a free white paper: "49 Ways To Turn Action Into Results," at http://www.actionleadership.com
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