Questions have power.
Think about the power of simply asking, “Why?” Bernard Baruch said, “Millions saw the apple fall, but Newton was the only one who asked why.”
Thank God for Isaac Newton! But what about the millions who saw the apples fall and never asked why? What kept them from asking the question?
Have you ever failed to ask a question because you were afraid that it would be a dumb one? I have! Too many times I’ve let pride get in the way of asking a question.
There’s a Chinese proverb that says, “He who asks is a fool for five minutes, but he who does not ask is a fool forever.”
I have observed that successful leaders relentlessly ask questions and have an incurable desire to pick the brains of the people they meet.
They are able to curb their egos and ask questions, even at the risk of looking foolish.
It’s pretty simple—if you want answers, you must ask questions. But, as IBM founder Thomas J. Watson said, “The ability to ask the right question is more than half the battle of finding the answer.”
I’ve discovered that if I persevere and keep asking questions, I quickly figure out the right questions to ask. And if I keep asking the right questions, it leads me to the right people. Figuring out this process took me years, but here’s the really good news: when you know the right questions and go to the right people with them, you will ultimately get the right answers!
But before you can ask great questions of others, you need to first ask great questions of yourself.
I want to let you in on my process today. Here are 10 questions that I ask myself to make sure I am asking great questions.
- Am I investing in myself? (A personal growth question)
Good leaders first invest in themselves before they invest in others. Because you cannot give what you do not have.
- Am I genuinely interested in others? (A motive question)
It is very easy to move from being a serving leader to being a self-serving one. That is why it is so important to ask yourself this question. It can be the difference between motivating and manipulating.
- Am I doing what I love and loving what I do? (A passion question)
Passion for what you do is at the core of your success and fulfillment. John Maxwell stokes the passion fire by reminding himself everyday, “I get to help people today.”
- Am I investing my time with the right people? (A relationship question)
When you’re with the wrong people asking the wrong questions, you are wasting your time. But when you’re with the right people asking the right questions, you are investing your time.
- Am I staying in my strength zone? (An effectiveness question)
Effective leaders do not build on weaknesses. They don’t start building on a foundation of things they cannot do. Effective leaders build on strengths—their own strengths and the strengths of those around them.
- Am I taking others to a higher level? (A mission question)
John Maxwell says, “Every day I remind myself that my mission as a leader is to add value to others. That is the only reason that I should have the privilege of leading others.” Here’s the honest truth—if those you are leading are going to a higher level, then you should continue leading. If the opposite is true, someone should take your place.
- Am I taking care of today? (A success question)
If you ask yourself this question daily, you will be able to keep yourself on course, correct things quickly when you get off course, and create a better tomorrow. The secret of your success is determined by your daily agenda.
- Am I taking time to think? (A strategic leadership question)
The Achilles’ heel of many leaders is too little think time. If you don’t create margin in your schedule to think, you will constantly find yourself saying, “I’m too busy.” And you will become a reactive leader instead of a proactive leader. Remember, activity is not necessarily accomplishment.
- Am I developing other leaders? (A legacy question)
If you want your organization to be successful for any length of time, you can’t just lead followers. You need to develop leaders. The price of developing leaders is very high—but so is the return! Who are you developing to which you can leave a legacy?
- Am I pleasing God? (A faith question)
My leadership and my life would fall short if what I was doing didn’t please God. So I constantly ask myself, “Am I living it?” and “Am I helping others to identify their gifts that God can be seen through?”
Know this: If you are no longer asking questions as a leader, then you might as well buy a rocking chair, put it on your front porch, and call it a day, because you’ve already retired!
Try asking yourself the questions above. Embrace asking great questions as a lifestyle and you will be more successful as a leader.
John Maxwell Leadership Podcast