How to ask Questions to get to the Best Solutions

how to ask questions to get to the best solutions team anywhere leadership podcasts episode 11
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On today’s podcast we interview Stephen Shapiro, hall of fame speaker, innovator, instigator, author, and advisor at 24/7 Innovation.  I was really excited to have Stephen use his latest book, Invisible Solutions, 25 Lenses that reframe and help solve difficult business problems, to help us come to better solutions for today’s dispersed workforce.

The pandemic has caused fear, uncertainty, and isolation, and Stephen shares that the only way to find solutions in this unprecedented time is to learn how to ask the right questions.  

Ask HOW questions Instead of Closed Questions

People are asking the question, “when do we go back?”  The problem with this question, is that it is closed, and can only provide a limited answer.  The other problem with this question is it is too wide open.  “Going back to what?”  Are we going back to how life was?  Are we going back to traveling?  

Stephen reframed the question to ask “how” questions and to narrow the area of the question.  Better questions are, “How can we go back to collaborating face-to-face?”  “How can we go back to our culture?” “How can we go back to the same level of productivity?”

Ask Reflective Questions:

Better questions would be reflective questions, “What are we learning?” “What have we improved?” “What should we eliminate?”

Much has changed, yet we still want to have the best results.  One of the great questions to use during this pandemic to create greater effectiveness is to use the Results lens, “What’s the purpose of this meeting?” “What’s the desired outcome?” 

What do you want to achieve? 

Many people are asking how to maintain their cultures.  Perhaps a good question would be, “What do you want to achieve with the culture?”  In many cases, the culture was a place where people received help, got their questions answered, felt cared for.  By understanding what you want to achieve, you can come up with activities that are not necessarily an onslaught of meetings. 

The Leverage Lens:

Another way to strengthen the culture is to use the leverage lens, and ask “If we could only focus on one aspect of our culture, what would it be? 

Change one word:

Instead of asking, “How do we keep people connected?” ask “Why do we want to keep people connected.

Scenario-Based Questions vs. One-Size-Fits All Questions

Steve proposes that we look at going back to the office in a “scenario-based” lens.  Let’s look at figuring out which scenarios determine whether we need to be together, and let’s optimize for each scenario.  

Performance Paradox:

For those of us who are feeling loneliness and isolation, let’s not focus on not being lonely, but instead focus on how we can be of service to others.  When we focus on the goal only (being not lonely) we lose the opportunity to focus on other outcomes.

Elimination Lens:

Another way to help those that are feeling lonely, is to ask what else do we want if we were to eliminate loneliness.  In that case, we might choose joy and happiness to replace loneliness. 

Reframing Overwork: 

Instead of asking, “how can we prevent people from overworking?” we can instead ask, “What work gets people energized?” “How can we get people more focused on what energizes them?”

Online Leadership Courses to Lead a Team From Anywhere:

Check out these online courses for remote leaders from the Team Anywhere Team.

How to Be an Effective Remote Manager | How to Build Virtual Accountability


Personality Poker

Stephen’s Website

Invisible Solutions

Best Practices are Stupid

24/7 Innovation

Best Quotes:

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