[October 6, 2021] A few years ago, I sat in a room full of Army Generals and was feeling exasperated by the fact they were unwilling to push back on the no-defects philosophy of our military. A 3-star was briefing us about the newest add-on requirements coming down from the Department of Defense. I asked, partly out of frustration, was “Of all these requirements, which ones do you want us to NOT do?”
He was taken aback at the question because the unspoken agreement was that we would do everything on his long list of new regulations and demands. I was having none of it. I would push back. “Okay,” I said, “If you want us to do all these things, then can you at least tell us what the top three priorities you want to be accomplished?’
This 3-star General, experience and intelligent, couldn’t answer the question. He was adamant that we had to do them all (impossible, of course). This is a common tactic when leaders get a bunch of crap shoveled on their plate; they shovel it down to the next guy and hope he can handle the load or keep quiet. I wasn’t keeping quiet, and I wasn’t about to take a bunch of new requirements without something being taken off my plate as well.
Asking the right question is tied closely with critical thinking because the “art of questioning” is essential to the excellence of thought. Doing so is a way of seeking the truth and clarity. Critical thinking provides the method to assess correctly, monitor, analyze, and re-direct our thinking and action. Good leaders focus on framing specific, disciplined questions to achieve the desired outcome.
In his book, “Good Leaders Ask Great Questions, John C. Maxwell takes us through the Socratic dialogue format. We all learned it, and now Maxwell uses it as a sharp tool to get at the heart of urgent social and public policy issues. This way, Maxwell gets good answers using profound questions that drive confidence, wise decision-making, and clarity of focus.
Maxwell shows how a disciplined and thoughtful question-based approach provides a practical toolbox for the leader and his team. Maxwell believes that by asking questions, he can also harness the power of every member of his team. His insights are something that good leaders already know but, maybe, have not developed.
Only by asking the right question will we get the correct answer.
Please read my newest book, “Our Longest Year in Iraq,” at Amazon (link here).