As leaders, we are often working under extreme time pressure. We have the tendency to go straight to the point, thinking that we are saving time. The “straight to the point approach” provides us with quick answers to our own questions, but is it enough? How can we find out what the most important issues really are?
In the broad range of management tools, the targeted use of the question “What do I need to know?” can help us understand some of the key issues and has several virtues:
To mobilize all the forces:
- By asking this question, we are giving the floor to employees to open up about what they see as the most important issues and inviting them to show us our blind spots.
- The question can even be used beyond the company, e.g. by asking business partners.
To open up to other perspectives:
- It provides the leader with access to key information which may not otherwise have been shared and enables the sharing of opinions.
- It promotes co-reflection between the leader and employees on key business topics.
To foster a culture of openness:
- It helps to avoid any surprises due to unspoken facts.
- For employees less inclined to sharing and transparency it invites them to be more open.
This last point is noteworthy as it forces employees to decide whether to divulge information they would rather have kept to themselves, or to face the consequences of not disclosing such information, even though they had a specific opportunity to do so.
In summary, the use of “What do I need to know?” fosters a culture of openness and can release surprisingly positive energies. Used wisely, this question can be very powerful!