Hold that Question: The Art of Big Questions, Held Long

I’ve been thinking a lot about the value of big questions. As leaders, our days can become so full of questions which we feel immediate pressure to ask and answer.

As leaders it is also vital that we ask the big, tough questions.

“The number one difference between a Nobel prize winner and others is not their IQ or work ethic, but that they sit with the questions longer.”
~Peter Drucker

In her book, Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter, Liz Wiseman, challenges leaders to reflect.

What is the question you are asking yourself this year?”

If you are going to sit with a question for an entire year, you better make it good.

She has some great ones:
What would cause other people to become smarter and more capable around me?

What could people figure out on their own if I just gave them more space?

How can I get the full brainpower of my team or organization?

In his post, The Power of Why, Ted Coine also inspires the bigger questions. He challenges senior leaders to question “why” they do the things they’ve always done. He asks…

  • You offer financial performance incentives to your sales people. Why?
  • You have a traditional hierarchy and a vast bureaucracy to enable it. Why?
  • You set budgets once annually, which drive decisions throughout the year. Why?
  • You eat lunch at your desk, and many of your people do as well. Why?

Once leaders have asked the big questions, Julie Giulioni encourages them to sit with them a while. In Closing the Door on Closure, she advocates for leaving questions open to see what emerges.

“Organizations might generate better solutions and capitalize on this motivation toward closure by putting business problems and opportunities out to others and letting them sit and percolate for a while rather than forcing an immediate (and sometimes sub-optimal) solution.”

How Questions Grow

My team has actually be sitting with a big question for several months now, “how do we become more influential leaders?” The thing is that big questions lead to more questions, which lead to action, which lead to more questions, which lead to conversation, which lead to more action. I am digging the big question thing.

Turns out, this year, I have also been carrying around a big question, “How can I help leaders to grow?” It started smaller.

  • How can I help my team to grow?
  • How can I help my kids to grow?
  • How do I need to grow?

But now there is a cycle swirling of leading, writing, leading, connecting, speaking, connecting, leading, writing and the big question just gets bigger, How can I help leaders to grow? It’s a question worth a lifetime of thinking.

What’s Your Big Question?

And now for the big question.

What question are you asking yourself this year?

  • What question energizes and inspires you?
  • What makes you angry?
  • What big question could you be asking your team?
  • What big question could you be taking to your boss for consideration?
  • What’s the big question worth holding in your heart?