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Your new superpower? Asking questions!

Your new superpower? Asking questions!


When I was growing up, I envied the little boy next door. His mom asked him questions. Would you like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or soup for lunch? Will you spend the afternoon reading a book or playing?

That’s not how it worked at my house. My folks, especially mom, told me how it was going to be.

He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask a question remains a fool forever. ~Chinese proverb

While I don’t think Mom intended for it to turn out this way, her telling style was a good life lesson. How so? It prepared me to deal with command-and-control style bosses who wanted answers straight up.

As I grew older, the questions my dad asked took a different twist. His inquiries began with “have you thought about,” “how/why,” or “help me understand.” Dad wanted to assure that I was thinking things through.

He prepared me to work for bosses who wanted thoughtful answers that demonstrated a command of the issues.

Early on, I worked for a boss whose questions tested both our logic and emotion.

His style was akin to that of Socrates, who was “well known for using questioning to probe the validity of an assumption, analyze the logic of an argument, and explore the unknown.”

That boss wanted to know how we were going to achieve both quality and quantity or how we would meet our short-term goals without jeopardizing our long-term position. Answering his inquiries demanded deeper thought and analysis of the big picture.

Only years later did it hit me that dealing with people who asked in different ways had gifted me with a well-rounded repertoire of knowing how to respond to different types of questions.

The key to wisdom is this: constant and frequent questioning, for by doubting we are led to question, by questioning we arrive at the truth. ~Peter Abelard

Sometimes questions are more important than answers because questions:

    • Lead to discovery and meaning.
    • Eliminate confusion or point to hidden agendas.
    • Help people to reflect and develop critical thinking skills.
    • Clarify intent and understanding.
    • Aid people in making sense of their surroundings.
    • Distinguish fact from fiction.
    • Define our purpose.
    • Provoke lively debate.
    • Satisfy people’s curiosity.
    • Prompt people to assess their assumptions.

A good question disrupts, inspires, shows humility, and opens closed doors.

The O.C. Tanner Institute learned that:

“asking the right question increased the odds of someone’s work having a positive affect on others by 4.1 times. It made the outcome 3.1 times more likely to be deemed important, 2.8 times more likely to create passion in the doer, and 2.7 times more likely to make a positive impact on the organization’s bottom line.”

Why do some people ask fewer questions as they get older?

Tom Pohlmann and Neethi Mary Thomas with Mu Sigma polled 200 of their clients.

  • Clients who had children estimated that 70-80% of their kids’ dialogues were questions.
  • Those same clients guessed that only 15-25% of their own interactions consisted of questions.

Tom and Neethi attribute the reduction in the number of questions asked by the adults to working in a you-need-to-get-it-done-yesterday business environment.

Their advice?

“Leaders should encourage people to ask more questions, based on the goals they’re trying to achieve, instead of having them rush to deliver answers. In order to make the right decisions, people need to start asking the questions that really matter.” ~Tom Pohlmann and Neethi Mary Thomas

Asking questions that really matter + actively listening to the answer + critically reviewing what’s been shared = a good thing.

Do a good thing today, okay?


Image source before quote: Pixabay




Use clarity and empathy to overcome an organizational crisis

Use clarity and empathy to overcome an organizational crisis

organizational clarity

Lately, it seems like there is one new corporate crisis after another in the headlines. Some of the largest, most visible, and successful companies are being forced to publicly apologize while feverishly attempting to convince their customers that these unfortunate incidents are only isolated blips that don’t imply the presence of any systemic organizational issues.

What’s going on here?

Is it arrogance, weak leadership, corporate greed, human error, or bureaucracy? Or is it simply the newfound social media cautionary tale?

Make no mistake—systemic issues are at play and there is a connection among all of these communications crises.

While evolving technology has increased the number of brand touchpoints available for instantaneous distribution of damaging content to millions of people, technology is not the root cause of this dysfunction. The corporate dysfunction isn’t new either. In reality, organizations and people haven’t changed; there has always been corporate dysfunction.

The very DNA of an organization is revealed through each and every touchpoint. When interactions reveal weakness, deeper problems within the organization are exposed. In an interconnected world where companies can fall from grace in hours, it has never been more important for leaders to address the common thread that creates corporate crises: a lack of clarity that originates at the very core of the organization.

Clarity is what happens when leaders take a holistic view of their strategy, people, and story—and ensure that there is alignment with each.

An outcome of alignment is a sustainable, positive culture with strong leadership. With clarity, employees at every level know how to live out the vision, mission, and purpose of the organization. They understand the behaviors expected of them every day. This clarity guides the people who work for the company and provides the reason for everyone to come together and serve.

It is this DNA that is the soul of an organization and drives decision-making, profits, and improves performance. Finding and leveraging that clarity is the difference between:

  • A spokesperson communicating a difficult decision or creating an entirely new crisis.
  • Customers believing the firm does care about their privacy or that everyone is management is a liar.
  • A passenger walking off an airplane or being dragged off; a pet arriving at its destination alive or dead.
  • Being seen as being committed to doing more to solve domestic and sexual violence issues or seen a being more interested in damage control.
  • Being revered for your role as one of the leading technology disruptors in the world or being reviled for the way you treat your employees and customers.

The digital economy has forced leaders to prioritize trust, transparency, and authenticity. It is no longer possible to explain our way out of crises or dysfunction. We must understand that the most contrite apology statements, countless refunds, or discounts will not fix crises that reveal systemic dysfunction.

Many examples of great companies that have successfully overcome public relations crises with openness, honesty, and empathy exist. The company names may not be at as memorable. But thanks to the clarity within their organizations, their customers forgave them, and in many cases, the connection with those brands actually improved.

The key to successfully managing any public relations challenge today is to find organizational clarity before the crisis happens.

Have you found organizational clarity?



Today’s guest contributor is Brad Deutser, president of Deutser LLC , a consulting firm that advises leaders and organizations about achieving clarity, especially in times of transition, growth or crisis.



Image source before quote added: Pixabay






What lottery balls and connections have in common

What lottery balls and connections have in common

make the connection

Check email. Debrief the boss. Go to the staff meeting. Return calls. Review sales numbers. Attend budget meeting. Check email. Participate in conference call with headquarters. Glance at online news headlines. Go to vendor meeting. Gobble granola bar. Conduct an employee coaching session. Check email. Review strategy assessment documents. Attend meeting with marketing department.

Is your typical work day something like this string of activities? Bouncing from one thing to another like those randomly dancing lottery balls just before the winning numbers are posted, all frenetic, unconnected energy?

In a crazy busy world where meaningful work relationships require commitment, novelist E.M. Forester’s phrase to “only connect” is a good reminder of what we need to do if we’re to do do good and do well.. 

In Everyone Communicates, Few Connect, leadership author John C. Maxwell says: “Connecting is the ability to identify with people and relate to them in a way that increases your influence with them.”

The Power of Connections

Are you as connected as you’d like to be?

If not, let the three-legged stool for building quality associations be your guide. Understanding what makes you tick is the starting block for building solid connections, so plan to start there. Follow that up with reconnecting with your colleagues, vendors, and clients.  Last, make it a point to reconnect with your boss.

Connecting with you

Snag a few minutes to re-engage with what’s important to you, personally, professionally, or both.

Psychologist Daniel Goleman’s work with emotional intelligence is highly instructive for individuals who are seeking better self-understanding:

The range of what we think and do is limited by what we fail to notice. And because we fail to notice that we fail to notice, there is little we can do to change until we notice how failing to notice shapes our thoughts and deeds. ~Daniel Goleman, Vital Lies, Simple Truths

Getting in touch with what we fail to notice about ourselves is a crucial first step to establishing powerful connections. To get in touch with what you might be missing about yourself, consider:

    • What’s my personal and professional north, and am I still on track?
    • What worthwhile things have I done today that I will continue doing?
    • Whose life did I touch today and help make it better?
    • What one thing, big or small, did I do today to renew my energy and increase my knowledge and/or skills?

Connect with colleagues

Spend a quality moment or two with a direct report, colleague, client or vendor. Establishing relationships and alliances with those around you at work—at every level within the organization and externally as well—is a make-or break element for career success.

In  Results Through Relationships, behavior strategist Joe Takash says: “Many people assume that only new contacts will help them achieve their goals, but in reality, many breakthroughs happen within existing networks.”

To connect with those around you:

    • Reach out and ask “how are you doing today?” Really listen to the answer and ask follow-up questions.
    • Say thank you.
    • Celebrate an accomplishment.
    • Spend a few minutes over a coffee to chat about sports, kids, a TV show, etc. Explore, discover and share interests to build a bond.

Connect with your boss

Engage your boss in a meaningful exchange. Warren Bennis reminds us: “No matter how brilliant you are, you need to remember the people.”

Be proactive and reach out to your boss:

    • Ask “How’s it going? Anything I can do to help?”
    • Invite her to a 10-minute coffee chat and seek to understand things from her perspective.
    • Ask him about his family or favorite book so you can establish some common ground and shared interests.

If meaningful connections are your goal, make it a habit to halt your bouncing balls for a few minutes each day and take the time to connect with someone. You’ll be glad you did and so will they.

How do you make and take the time to connect?



Image source:






5 essential laws of internal communications

5 essential laws of internal communications

Today’s guest contributor is Megan Marie Ritter, an online business journalist  with a background in social media marketing. Her writing covers everything from entrepreneurship and small business strategies, to virtual communications technology and global business strategies. 


Ainternal communications successful company is comprised of a strong team of individuals.

While you might be experiencing good communication between your suppliers and customers, a business will collapse if its internal communications are not given some degree of attention. Having an effective internal communications system in place is a vital ingredient for the success of any business.

When an operation has a clearly-defined strategy in place and everything goes according to plan, good things are sure to follow — and that’s icing on the cake. (more…)

An important lever of change is communications

An important lever of change is communications

Mark Miller on change

I’ve written several posts over the last few years about change.

Based on the enormity of the task we face as leaders, I probably have not written enough on this important topic.

I love the idea of a lever as it relates to change.

As you may remember from physics, a lever creates mechanical advantage. Translated, a lever allows you to move or lift a significantly greater load than you could without it. (more…)