Are They Paying Attention?

Photo credit:  Creative Commons  

Photo credit: Creative Commons

Recently I was having breakfast with a CEO who’s been a client for years. We caught up on each other’s lives a bit. Then he mentioned his frustration at seeing a mess on the factory floor that no one seemed to notice. It’s way “down the ladder” from him, probably four or five levels of management between the CEO and this problem. The CEO went to his COO and asked how he planned to get the mess cleaned up.

Here’s why that’s not ideal.

One of the most important jobs a leader has every single day is to direct people’s attention. If the CEO had been thinking about that, he might instead have asked something like “What’s going on in the culture of your organization that this mess was being ignored?”

That’s a question the COO needs to give his attention to. Getting this mess cleaned up is easy, not really what the COO and the CEO should be talking about. But a conversation about the culture and leadership of the organization that created a situation where the mess was ignored – that's a conversation worth having.

When your questions shine a light on what really deserves attention, more of the right things get done in the right way.

How do you use questions to lead your team?

Asking better questions is one of the skills you can develop in my new group coaching program – Leading Change.