Do you remember that Peter Sellers Pink Panther scene where he famously asks if the hotel manager’s dog bites? Right question, wrong dog. Unless Leaders ask the right question to the right people, we will not get a result we are seeking. Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and just plain Asking Questions are skills we ALL can be better at.
Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
Mark Smith of Action Management has helped large companies across America in the area of Critical Thinking and Problem Solving. I asked Mark what is the best way to make sure we are asking the right questions as part of the Critical Thinking and Problem Solving process:
You must get to the underlying issues and get agreement about where the focus needs to be. First, you need to understand where you are in the evolution of the problem. Your perception may be different than others so begin with the question “What is the problem we need to solve?” Make sure that you have complete agreement here before you move on. If you don’t have agreement, then you’ll never reach agreement about the solution to the problem. If you want to go deeper, you can include some of this:
- What is the problem we are trying to solve? Try this one question at your next unproductive meeting and see if you don’t get some very different responses.
- What is causing the problem?This question is frequently overlooked as people assume they already know the cause. You won’t get agreement on the ultimate solution if you don’t get agreement on questions #1 and #2.
- What ideas do you have for solving the problem? We often allow our biases and incorrect assumptions to narrow our choices. Don’t fall into this trap…ask the question.
- What is your recommendation? This should be a logical outcome from the responses to questions #1 – #3.
- What could go wrong with the solution we will Implement? This is an important question to avoid creating new problems. Make sure you devise actions to reduce the likelihood that something will go wrong.
Leading With Questions
Sometimes its as simple as just asking questions. Bob Tiede, who most leaders in DFW have met at the Pancake House at least once in their life time, has made it his quest to teach people to Lead with Questions, something he does very well. “Friends of Bob” have come to know that Bob’s work with leaders is focused on asking the right questions. Bob works with leaders around the world and tells them “Leadership is not as much about knowing the right answers, it’s about knowing the right questions.” I like the way Bob drives us to ask questions, listen well, and consider the other side of the situation before taking action. Go read more and follow Bob to keep a focus on asking the right questions. http://leadingwithquestions.com
In our monthly meetings, we spend time focusing on issues and opportunities that are important to our members. We do not spend time voicing our opinions, but rather we share experiences so we can learn from each other. Instead of Brainstorming a solution to an issue, we do “Q-Storming” to make sure we are focused on the real issue. I first learned about Q-Storming from a book called “Change your Questions, Change your Life” by Marilee Adams and it makes a lot of sense. Q-Storming keeps Leaders from spending time looking for solutions to the wrong problem. If a worker has become unproductive recently, don’t try to figure out how you can replace them, figure out why they are not being productive. Seems simple enough but too many leaders just work to fix the problem before they really understand what the real problem is. A core value of Renaissance Executive Forums is that we help you “Find Questions to Your Answers.” This seems backwards but we want to emphasize that having other people look at your issues and opportunities will help you see things you may have missed, and lead you to the best course of action. If you have QUESTIONS about being a part of a CEO Peer Advisory Group, call or email me at (469) 791 – 0455 and RobertH@REFDallas.com
ABOUT ROBERT HUNT
I am a Forum Leader and Business Partner for Renaissance Executive Forums Dallas. My role is to find the best members for our CEO Peer Groups, then lead each meeting so that our members become Raving Fans. You can connect with me on LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter, and Facebook.