Setting Direction With Just One Question
As a leader in any setting, others look to you for direction. If you're a parent, you set the tone and timetable for your household. (Admittedly, it may not feel this way if you are a parent of teens, but that's a subject for another post.) Leaders in a job setting typically "run the show" for everything from routine meetings to high-level strategy. The most versatile of all, volunteer group leaders often wear many hats.
No matter what your leadership role, you set the example. Moreover, you set the agenda. Although you probably establish agendas in the literal sense, you also have responsibility for the function, direction and progress of the group you lead. A great leader helps his or her group understand where they are headed, keeps them on track and ensures that their time is always well spent. It sounds simple, but it's not. Think of any situation where you've walked away more confused than when you started, or feeling as if your time was wasted. It happens - even with a strong leader at the helm.
Leaders - all leaders, no matter what the setting - can more effectively set direction for any interaction with their teams by asking just one question:
"What Do We Want to Accomplish?"
Imagine if every business meeting started with this question. Think about the value that the question might have for a "family conference". Consider its power if asked in the context of a large civic group project.
Too often, we assume that our teammates, family members or others understand what we're about to do. It may seem that we're tackling something very simple with little room for interpretation. Asking, "what do we want to accomplish?" might feel like a waste of time. We avoid it, not wanting to restate the obvious.
However, a few minutes spent clarifying purpose and intent at the outset of any interaction will be extremely valuable. If you've ever been involved in a meeting that went in circles, with no discernible outcome, you can understand. If you've walked away from a conversation thinking, "That wasn't at all what I came to discuss", you can relate.
Professional leadership coaches are trained to consistently use this technique. The skilled coach assumes nothing - and as a result, always seeks to understand exactly what the client wants to accomplish during the overall coaching engagement and during each session. By asking, "what do we want to accomplish?" and clarifying until the understanding is mutual, the coach assures that the client will receive exactly what he or she needs and expects.
The next time you work with your group, try asking the question, "What do we want to accomplish?" Follow up by clarifying until everyone understands. You may be surprised at the answers to the initial question, but you won't be surprised at the end result of your interaction.