September 25, 2011

I’m always ranting about asking questions. Scroll through my blogs – you’ll find questions. Read my books – you’ll find questions. Essential questions and cage-rattling ones, too.

Leaders use conversation as a core business practice. Leaders use questions to stimulate meaningful conversation, engage in learning, and produce change.

Of course, “why” is an important question. “Why” is the essential probing question. “Why” can be a real cage-rattler, too.

One of my favorite characters, Jack Reacher said, “Talking to a man with a gun is a risk. Asking questions isn’t.” Of course, Reacher found out that wasn’t so true. Because asking questions can be real risky and hugely dangerous.

Then I’m reading another novel, Agent X by Noah Boyd. The hero talks about Sakichi Toyoda, the so-called “king of Japanese inventors.” His name should sound familiar. “He started a little company called Toyota,” says our hero. “But more importantly,” the hero continues, Toyoda developed the business concept called the Five Whys.

“Toyoda figured out that when a problem occurs, if you ask why five times, give or take, you’ll trace any problem back to its root cause and then [you] can prevent it from recurring.”

Real leaders use conversation as a core business practice. True leaders ask essential and cage rattling questions. And leaders ask why a lot, too. Not just to figure out problems. Leaders use conversation, questions, and “why” to help build understanding and ownership; to create new things; to stimulate learning and change.




Filed under: Leadership

About Simone Joyaux

A consultant specializing in fund development, strategic planning, and board development, Simone P. Joyaux works with all types and sizes of nonprofits, speaks at conferences worldwide, and teaches in the graduate program for philanthropy at Saint Mary’s University, MN. Her books, Keep Your Donors and Strategic Fund Development, are standards in the field.

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