The Right Question

May 17th, 2014 | Posted in Clarity, Fit Leader, Leadership Fitness by

Many of you know I believe one of the most important qualities of a Fit Leader is an ability to ask The Right Question.

It’s easy to ask the wrong question, a question that limits discovery and does little to advance our understanding of the issues at hand.

I recently came across two great questions I’d like to share with you.

The first question comes from a book I just finished reading called The Element by Ken Robinson.

Before I reveal this first great question, let me point to the more common version of the question most of us are used to hearing instead: “How intelligent are you”?

Our schools and our workplaces tend to place huge emphasis on our intelligence as traditionally measured by IQ, grades and/or titles.

Robinson turns this question around by simply rearranging the four words in this familiar question and asks instead “How are you intelligent”?

Rooted in the belief that all of us are intelligent at something, this alternative question puts the focus on our unique contributions, as driven by our individual passions.

These individual intelligences often are not easily measured by standardized intelligence tests.

It is ironic that one of the creators of the IQ test, Alfred Binet, actually intended the test to identify children who had special needs or were simply expressing their “intelligence” in different ways.

Binet never intended his test to identify degrees of intelligence or “mental worth”.

Among the many stories Robinson recounts in his book, the story of a young boy whose teachers believed showed no musical talent is one of the more compelling. This young boy was none other than Paul McCartney.

If we really want to uncover someone’s genius, the right question is “How are you intelligent?” and not “How intelligent are you?”

The second great question comes from one of my clients at the State of Michigan. When I asked a roomful of leaders at one of my recent workshops to identify which approach they preferred using to solve a particular challenge, this individual replied elegantly “Whichever approach works best”.

My client went on to explain his preference for measuring what he called the “juice to squeeze” ratio. When we ask ourselves how much juice we’re getting in relationship to the amount of effort we are expending in producing that juice, we end up with a pretty useful indicator of both effectiveness and efficiency.

As you interact with your colleagues, be on the lookout for your own great questions. In the meantime, “How are you intelligent?” and “What is your Juice-to-Squeeze ratio?”

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