When was the last time you asked a colleague or someone on your team, “Where am I being unclear, that’s getting in your way?” Or a customer, “What’s haven’t I asked you that I should know about your experience working with us?”
As part of helping leaders tap their full potential, we exec coaches are often called to do interviews or other assessments that clean out their blind spots. We do a deep dive, and that’s a great tool when done by a highly-skilled coach.
That said, the best expert to clean out your blind spot on a regular basis is you.
Ask your team, colleagues, and customers excellent questions from time to time about things that are not readily visible to you and listen to what they say like you mean it. Don't defend yourself or debate them. Listen more than you talk. Applaud their honesty, and leave it with "thank you." They will say what you need to lead, rather than what you want to hear.
Here’s an extensive list of my own examples, and I invite you to create yours—and pepper one or two of them in to your various conversations with colleagues and customers over time. When you ask, make sure you offer for them to think about it, so you’re not putting them on the spot. Then invite them to let you know when they have an answer.
- What’s the most important thing my organization/team/group can do to be a better collaborator with yours?
- Where am I hitting and missing the target on opportunities to be at our best as an organization?
- Where am I not holding myself—or someone else—sufficiently accountable?
- Where am I hitting and missing the target at exceeding your expectation as a customer?
- Where am I over-investing and under-investing our resources?
- What should I know about your workload that I may not see or understand?
- What should I know about what energizes or de-motivates you that I may not see or understand?
- What question should I ask you that I haven’t asked?
- What’s one thing you and I can each do to work together better?
- What do you not want to tell me, that would help us both for me to hear?
- What are you finding hard to understand about the feedback I’ve given you?
- What do I not seem to be noticing or paying enough attention to?
- Is there anything I’m doing — or not doing — that you find problematic?
- Where am I overconfident or hearing what I want to hear more than what I need to know?
- Is there anything you’ve tried saying to me that I’m dismissing or avoiding?
- Where do we as an organization tend to repeat the same behavior and expect a different result?
If you’re an exceptional leader, you may already ask questions like these. Also, you may read through them and not find them very useful. It’s up to you to pick the ones that fit you, your team, and your organization. Some leaders have even asked their team(s) or customers to create a short list of questions they want to be asked. It's all good!
Bottom line: questions expand possibilities, and leadership is about turning possibilities into realities. If you’re doing more telling than asking/listening as a leader, then you’re missing what you need to know to lead effectively.