Today host John Laurito talks about the importance of asking questions, especially the right ones. Subordinates don’t often open up to leaders, especially when their personal lives affect their work. One overlooked skill of leaders today is asking questions. By asking questions as a leader, you also communicate that questioning is important. You’ll inspire people to identify new opportunities and ask for help when needed.
[0:46] For today’s riddle…
[1:23] The scenario
[4:50] Keep probing and ask questions
John Over the last two decades, I’ve been on an insatiable quest to learn everything I can about leadership. What makes the best leaders so good? After running companies small and large over the last 20 years, today I speak on stages all across the world to audiences who are interested in that same question. My name is John Laurito. I’m your host, and I invite you to join me on this journey as we explore this very topic and what makes the best leader so good. Welcome to tomorrow’s leader.
John All right. Tomorrow’s leaders. Hope you’re having a great day. This is another short but significant episode for you. It’s a short and powerful little snippet. First, let me give you the riddle for today. Again, put your thinking caps on the first person, email me, text me, call me carrier, pigeon me. Whatever you want to do, give me your answer. I will make you famous on this show. So the question is, what can travel around the world while staying in a corner? I will say once again, what can travel around the world but stay in a corner? What can travel around the world and stay in a corner? Starts variety at a theater near you. Okay. All right, enough of that. So let me know your thoughts, your answers and your guesses.
John Okay. Today’s topic, I was thinking back to a scenario it ties into this topic. I was thinking back to this a scenario where I was having a conversation with one of my people. This was a number of years ago, and it was just kind of it wasn’t even a scheduled one-on-one or anything like that. It was just we were in kind of this impromptu conversation. I was in his office and asking him some questions, you know, Hey, how’s it going? What’s going on? This and that. And I just kind of felt like something was off and his answers were fine. He’s, you know, fine. This and that, whatever is the words he was saying were not a concern. And it was something beyond that. I couldn’t really put my finger on it, but I’m like, something just seems off with this guy. And I actually left the meeting and we probably, I don’t know a five-minute conversation. And I was walking down the hallway and I remember thinking, you know what? I just feel like something else is there. And I went back and walked into his office. I said, Hey, man, you got a minute? And he said, Sure. And I said I can’t help but feel like something’s going on or something’s not right. Is everything okay?
John And wow, this guy just opened up and got emotional and let me into his world in a way that I had no idea what was going on. He was going through a lot of stuff that I really, truly had no idea family stuff, health stuff, and just really very, very difficult things. And to say this guy kept it hidden was just an understatement. I mean, nobody would have guessed it. And I just happened to hit him at a time. And again, I just felt like there was he was saying everything was fine. He was giving me answers about the business and what’s going on. And but I just felt like something was up. And I’m so glad I went back to ask him because I appreciated his honesty and his opening up to me because it helped me be in a better position to help him. You know, the last thing I wanted to do was make his life worse at a real tough time, add more stress, whatever.
John So I realized at that point if there was anything I could do to help ease his situation, me understanding what was going on was really important to me, being able to do that. And, and from that moment on, it just let me work with him and just relate to him and just help him through it a little bit. I know I’m not saying I was able to do much other than not make his situation worse, and I could only do that because of what I knew was going on. And I just it made me realize because I was talking to somebody else earlier today about this, about how many people are there’s the answer that they give you and then the real answer. And oftentimes those are two very, very different things I think about in leadership as we get going within the business, we tend to the higher up we go, the fewer people are willing to tell us the truth. And I don’t mean that in a negative way other than the fact that people want people to tell us what we want to hear. Right. The higher up you go in an organization, the less people you tend to have that will tell you the real answer. So I think about how does that affect the leader’s ability to run his or her organization? And sometimes what you need to do is you truly need to keep probing.
John You truly need to be continuing to ask questions. I find it a simple rule. If I’m asking questions, a lot of times our knee jerk reaction is when I say, Hey, how’s everything going? How’s this business unit going here? How’s this person doing? Whatever. The first answer I get is is positive. It’s fine. Good. Yeah, great. How’s business going? Great. Awesome. And I know it’s not until I dig a little deeper that I get the true answer or start to get the true answer. And I find one of the best leadership lessons. Don’t stop the first question. So if I say, Hey, how’s everything going? Your answer is great. And I really want to know how are things going. I might follow it up and say, okay, great, what’s going great? Hey, what are you struggling with? What are you having challenges with? What’s one thing I could help you with? What keeps you up at night? What’s one thing that would. Would help accelerate, help you move fast or help the business do better? By the time I’m asking questions like that, three, four or five questions. Now I’m starting to get more real answers.
John So my big message for you in this short podcast today is don’t just stop at one. And I’m talking about you parents out there. We’ve got kids. Think about your kids. You know, I struggle with this, too. Kids give you, like, one word answers if you’re lucky. Sometimes. Sometimes it’s a grunt. How you don’t earn, you know, how is school today? You know, I’ve now, you know, sometimes you’ve got to decipher the tone of the ground, ask follow up questions. And I’m not saying I’m great at that because I’m still learning how to become much better at that. But as a leader, just think about whether can I just keep asking questions. It doesn’t have to be a perfect question. It doesn’t even have to be, you know, a great question other than the fact that it’s a question, it keeps the conversation going. And ultimately you’ll get to a good answer, the right answer, the real answer, not the answer they think you want to hear, but the real answer. That’s what you need as a leader.
John You need to know what’s going on in your organization. You need to know what’s going on with your people. And you’re not going to know that unless you get the real answer. And you’re not going to get the real answer unless you dig for it. So keep digging. Open probes, open probes, open probes. And sometimes the best thing you can do. I love watching a great interviewer because they’ll ask people questions and they don’t just respond when the person responds to what they do. A great interview oftentimes will say nothing because the silence they know there’s two or 3 seconds of awkward, uncomfortable silence will prompt the person to then continue talking. And that second answer and comment is much better than the first. So pay attention to that.
John When you watch a great interviewer, watch how they do that, especially with an important question that they ask the last question. The person will respond, and the person will stop. And the interviewer doesn’t say anything. The interviewer doesn’t respond. And then the person picks back up again and continues their thought. And that part is the mightiest, most revealing, most important part of their answer. So take it from me. There you go. Little leadership nugget on a random day, whatever day this is that you’re listening, watching, whatever the case may be. So hope that helps. Hope it gets the wheels turning. That is the show for today. Short and sweet, 70 minutes, whatever it is, let me know your guesses on the riddle. Again, keep asking those questions.
John Signing off. John, the widow here with you today likes share, subscribe, all that kind of good stuff. Go below give a five-star review and we will see you next time. Take care.
John Thanks for joining us on today’s episode of Tomorrow’s Leader. For suggestions or inquiries about having me at your next event or personal coaching, reach me at John@johnlaurito.com. Thanks, lead on!