“If he’d only just asked the question…”
Last week, I was boarding a plane just as news came out that a federal judge had ruled that the CDC mask mandate was unlawful and would no longer be in effect. One passenger decided he’d confront one of the flight attendants about it, refusing to wear his mask. While we all feared a long delay ahead, the pilot was able to diffuse the situation, letting everyone know that while the federal rule may have changed, American Airlines policy hadn’t yet.
Why am I telling you this story?
Because when I chatted with the flight attendant about it later on, she said, “If the guy would’ve just asked me I would have told him, “I’m not going to hassle you over it if you don’t want to wear it.”
In other words, if he had just been willing to ask … he would have got the result he was looking for, plus a civil interaction instead of a hostile one.
If there’s one habit that contributes to the deterioration of relationships in the workplace (and in life), it’s forgetting that one simple lesson. Just ask.
Instead, we power into situations with our fixed position, our ideas, and our assumptions of what is true, what has to happen, or what the other person is thinking.
Picture for a moment just how much your world could open up, and your work relationships expand, thanks to an ability to be curious. Don’t believe me? Ask Ted Lasso instead.
The ability to be curious – to be confident enough to keep things moving forward without losing the ability to take a fresh perspective at any given moment – is the type of leader people love working for. Why? Because working for a leader that asks questions gives you the feeling that you have space to have a voice, to solve the problem differently, or to see the problem in an entirely new light.
We can pin a lot of our collective failure to not only attract but also retain talented people who operate at the highest level of their capabilities on our own failure to be curious. We choose certainty because we think it makes us seem more confident when in fact, it has the opposite effect.
The more certain you present yourself to be a leader, the more insecure people know that you are.
To be clear, that doesn’t mean lacking clarity or vision in a long term sense, but in your willingness to question your assumptions in the very many moments along the way, none more important than in your dealings with other humans, especially the ones who have less authority than you and have to deal with you every day.
Here’s what asking questions as a leader might look like:
- “I noticed you were sketching something in your notes while we were reviewing the project timeline, did you have an idea you wanted to share?”
- “Here’s what I was thinking going into today’s meeting, but I’m not sure that’s right.”
- “I have an idea for what support you need to reach that goal but, rather than assume, …what do you need from me, if anything, to reach that goal?”
All you have to do is ask.
If you’d like a clear and simple path to great leadership, book a free discovery call with us to talk about it! Our leadership coaching and manager training programs can help you and your company build Good Authority so that people grow and stay on purpose.
We look forward to chatting soon.
P.S. The brand new Refound Academy People Leader Training is now out! Check it out here! This is for anyone who leads people or wants a path to great people leadership