One of the most important things we do as a leader is ask questions. We can’t assume that we understand everything. Donna Ladkin talks about the “vague unease” one begins to feel that two observations don’t quite connect together, when according to your mental framework, they should.
A few years ago I was digging through some marketing research data when I noticed that two data points, when taken together just didn’t make any sense. They seemed completely opposite of each other, and the math just didn’t add up. Something just wasn’t right. So I called the vendor. And it turns out, the vendor had made a mistake in the report.
So what is the lesson? When something feels not quite right, when little bits of evidence don’t add up, you need to start asking questions. You may not know what questions to ask, so just start. When the dialogue gets going, you’ll begin to see patterns, and see what doesn’t make sense. Keep asking more questions. Question your own assumptions or view points. Look for those unstated assumptions and articulate them.
I love the question “why?” I also love “how”. They slowly get you to the bottom of bad assumptions and logic. And they engage others in the discussion. They help you learn about the context and the work at hand. They keep you close to the issue.
So pay attention to your feelings of unease or disquiet. They often signal that it is time to start asking questions. As leaders, we need to deeply understand both strategy and execution in our organizations. To build better strategies and to execute with excellence, we need to ask more questions.