How To Expose A Two-Faced Leader

Two-faced leaders destroy culture, break trust, and diminish results. They act one way when you’re around, and another when you’re not. Frustrating when it’s a peer. Terrifying when you discover that Ms. Two-Faced is a leader in your organization.

In front of you she says and does all the right things. At other times, her witchy side emerges. You’ve been naively supporting the two-faced lie.

You see:

  • Receptivity to feedback
  • Helpful approaches
  • Warm engagement
  • Inclusive discussions
  • Calm and helpful meetings

Her team sees:

  • Threats and ultimatums
  • Micro-management
  • Yelling
  • Disorganization
  • Mismanaged stress

Chances are, they’re too scared to tell you.

If you’re a two-faced leader yourself, stop it. It will come out. It always does. If you sense a two-faced terror on your own team, read on.

Exposing a Two Faced Leader

  1. Hang around – Show up unexpectedly. Engage with the team in casual settings where they’re more likely to open up.
  2. Conduct skip level one-on-ones – Talk leadership style. Inquire about support. Ask what they need most. Ask for examples of great leaders. Some brave guys will bring up “two-faced.”  Avoiding the subject is also data.
  3. Conduct a 360 – Ms. two-faced may not fully recognize the differences in style with different audiences. Conduct an assessment, invite candor, and show her the data.  Get her a coach.
  4. Ask her – Don’t wait until you have files full of evidence. Ask questions without confronting. “How would you describe your leadership style? How does that play out in these different contexts?” “What would your team say about you” Watch for body language.
  5. Talk to her peers – They’ve heard the stories, and have felt the repercussions. They didn’t want to throw her under the bus, but “since you asked”

5 Ways To Unblock Leadership Energy

I felt my energy drain as I drove toward the call center. The center’s results were stagnant– it was time to dig deeper. I was there to help, but also to deliver some tough messages. Necessary, not fun.

“Joe,” one of the managers, ran enthusiastically across the parking lot. Joe’s energy ignited mine. The day was looking up. As we walked toward the center together, Joe high-fived and encouraged each arriving rep. They responded in kind. More positive vibes.

We entered the building and the rest of the managers sat quietly at the conference room table nervously awaiting my (and now Joe’s) arrival. The difference in energy–palpable.

Joe’s results blew away the rest of the struggling center. While the other managers shared action plans, Joe excitedly articulated his leadership vision and robust examples of personal connection, challenges and growth.

When I met with the executive team offline I questioned, “How do we get more Joes?” They squirmed, “We can’t expect everyone to have that level of energy.”

Energetic Leaders are Born, Made, and Destroyed

Energy is union, with yourself, the vision, and the team. Energy isn’t extraversion. Don’t waste your time looking for “Joes.” Unblock the stuck energy on your team. It’s not that hard. Release their inner “Joe.”

Empowering low energy destroys potential.

5 Energy Pressure Points

Your leaders have innate energy yearning for release. Get them unstuck. Their energy will cascade, and pretty soon you’ll have an entire organization high on Qi (9 out of 10 studies show well running Qi beats energy drinks without that awful crash ;-).

  1. Missing Connection – Connection fuels fire. Teach the power of connecting, with you, peers, and their team. Model the way. 360 feedback and coaching helps. So can a good talk. Explore insecurities and fear preventing valuable connections.
  2. Faking it – Pretending exhausts. Leaders pretend to look the part, fit in, mask insecurities, hide secrets. Help your leaders uncover and use their mutant powers by using unique skills that stretch them beyond their current job.
  3. Blurry Vision – Fuzzy vision confuses. When leaders lack energy, it’s often that they don’t understand (or buy-into) the vision. It’s hard to act jazzed, when you don’t get it. Go slow. Help them understand the bigger picture. Encourage closed-door dissent and questions. “Ah ha” moments radiate energy. Then help craft and practice messages.
  4. No Options – Choices ignite. Challenge your team with exciting possibilities. Leaders lose energy when they’re stuck. Stuck in their career, in a role, in a project. Help them discover options and new challenges.
  5. Stress – Stress sabotages . When leaders are stressed from competing priorities or home concerns they lose the necessary energy to lead well. Help them balance their goals and energetic pursuits.

5 Ways To Stop Excuses And Inspire Results

Big goals. Frustrating roadblocks. Concerns grow into excuses. Venting fuels negativity.
Weak leaders excuse excuses.
Strong leaders reframe thinking.
Growing leaders inspire possibility.

A Few of My Favorites

  • “We would sell more, if the product line were different”
  • “Our attrition would be better, if our competitor wasn’t paying more”
  • “My quality results would be higher, if I wasn’t assigned to the late shift”
  • “The employees would be more engaged, if this wasn’t a union environment”
  • “Our stock would be doing better, if the economy were better”
  • ___________?

Take a minute to fill in your favorite excuses to your most significant business problems. The issues are real. Inspire beyond the excuses.

Inspire Beyond Excuses

  1. Acknowledge reality – Don’t defend or sugar coat. Share work underway by others. Brainstorm creative solutions, but then move on. Clearly articulate what is beyond the team’s scope. If it’s gravity acknowledge that too.
  2. “Sell the bananas on the truck.” – When my sales team complained that they needed a different product mix, I had one response, “sell the bananas on the truck.” If you have bananas, find the people who need bananas, and meet their needs. Drive to where the banana eaters live. Stop wishing you had mangos. Align on what’s within their control. Brainstorm a list. You can impact most of what matters. Encourage past frustration.
  3. Reinforce – vision and purpose. Empower contribution to the bigger picture. “When you win despite X7@#$%#$%, what will that mean to your team?.. our customers? the company? your career?”
  4. Recognize – those succeeding despite the obstacles. Someone always has their head down winning. Celebrate success. It’s hard to make excuses when others around you are knocking it out of the park under the same conditions. In my “bananas on the truck” role I created a “century club, for anyone that got to 100. That seemed crazy at the time, when 7 was a big win. We celebrated every Century Club member with passion (not a lot of $, just excitement and personal attention). Soon 100 felt easy.
  5. Show them the Data – Complaining magnifies concerns. Data grounds issues in reality. “The competition is causing our attrition” can be countered with, “2 of 40 have left to work for a competitor how could we have saved the other 38?”

*“Sell the bananas on the truck” I took this pic in Costa Rica… this guy was literally selling the banana on his truck. Inspiring.

10 Ways To Zap Energy And Squash Enthusiasm

Bad leaders suck life-force from their teams. They don’t mean to. And yet, contagious yawns permeate the workplace. Low energy abounds. Why?

I’ve been asking this question everywhere this week (my organization, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter). Here’s the top 10. I’ll leave it to you for #11.

10 Energy Zappers

  1. Blurry vision – Working frantically without a clear purpose is dumb. With pressure, dumb morphs into exhausting. Leaders must clearly communicate the vision and engage the team.
  2. Lack of connection – If everyone around you is gung-ho, and you don’t get it look within. It’s not them, it’s you. That’s great data. If you have one person on your team who you just can get there perhaps it’s time for a tough conversation. Learn what they really want to do.
  3. Missing information – Without information we make stuff up; make-believe is always worse than the truth. Filling in blanks is exhausting.
  4. Inauthenticity – Folks want the truth about the dynamics and safety of their organization, the market forces and challenges, competitive moves and yes, where they stand. Not knowing dims life-force.
  5. Feeling stuck – Lack of career growth or forward progress. Help your team grow.
  6. Personal ick – One follower wrote,
    “What gets me down or out of my regular mode of existence cold weather and not having a lover.”
    Honest feedback. We’ve all got our stuff. Leaders must lead humans, even in the winter. He added:
    “Nothing or no one can demotivate me. I’m the ony person who can motivate myself.”
    Yes! Tap into, and encourage, the personal elements in your leadership. Your team may need a listening ear and an understanding heart more than a pep rally.
  7. Too many priorities – Overwhelmed confuses energy. Refine focus to streamline energy.
  8. Unattended conflict – Healthy conflict energizes. Buried conflict exhausts.
  9. Boring – Monotony leads to sleepy.Mix it up. Create challenges. Find fun in repetitive tasks.
  10. Festering negativity – Even one whiner makes people crazy. Take Mr. Negative aside and get underneath. When others complain to you encourage straight talk. Don’t underestimate the impact of a loud negative minority.

*Photo by Larry Kohlenstein

Work Environment Matters

It was a ridiculously hot July day. As a Retail Store Director, I was out on “store visits” with one of our top executives. Such excursions always feel like you’re on the hot seat, even on a cool day. My bosses boss was looking for evidence of strong execution, a positive work environment, and delighted customers. We went in the back door. He asked, “Karin, do you think it’s going to snow today?”

“Huh?” Had the heat gone to his head? And then I looked down at the big tub of rock salt prominently placed next to the door. People had clearly been walking by it for months. I knew the rest of the visit was going to go downhill. Sloppy backrooms signal inattention in other areas. It was a terrible visit. 

The Broken windows theory works in business too. When leaders tolerate sloppy backrooms, disorganized inventory, or gum on the sidewalks, it’s easier to grow to lazy in other areas. I now have a job that lets me in the “backrooms” of other companies. The theory plays out. Call centers with outdated signage or dirty rugs have worse results than those with creative recognition boards and clean break areas. Effort begets effort. A cared for work environment encourages deeper commitment. Human beings care when they are cared about.

Creating a Better Physical Work Environment

  1. Involve the team in the design
    Provide the parameters and then ask for input. I’ve been amazed at the productivity gains by just involving the teams in a few simple work environment changes. Many choices don’t involve additional costs, and the payoff in satisfaction is well worth the time. Input can happen at a company, department or team level. Involvement provides a positive sense of control.
  2. Explain the linkage
    Explain why work environment matters. Share the vision of a clean and attractive place to work. In one company I work with, the center director came in and painted all the training rooms himself. An important symbolic gesture, well-received.
  3. Establish and reinforce clear standards
    Define standards. For example, no food left in the fridge more than a day. All posters and signs up-to-date. No pizza boxes left on tables etc. This sounds silly, but even highly paid professionals get sloppy and annoy their peers.
  4. Leave room for fun.
    Zappos is famous for their creative work environment (see pics), but many other companies are doing as well. Themes work well. Lighten it up and change it up. Creativity creates energy and fun.

How important is the physical work environment in your world?

What Motivates You? 360 Degree Perceptions

What motivates you? What would your friends say motives you? How about your mom? Your boss? Your kids?

It’s been a while since we did some real work together at Let’s Grow Leaders. Today I challenge you to a short-term experiment that I picked up reading What Keeps Leaders Up at Night. More to come on that book. It’s fantastic. I’m meeting with the author soon…

Join in the “What Motivates You” Fun

Read the activity below and follow the easy steps to participate. Join back on July 1st to share your experiences (I’ll be sharing mine).

What Motives You: An Experiment

The “what motivates you” methodology is simple

1. Write down 3 or 4 sentences that you believe truly describe what motivates you.
i.e. “To challenge people to grow toward their full potential”

2. Identify 5 or so people you trust to give you candid feedback. Ask them to tell you the complete truth. Then ask, “What do you think motivates me?

3. Listen and consider. Jot down your reactions. And your reactions to their comments.

4. Join back on July 1st to share whatever feels comfortable. This “was cool. I learned a lot ” works, no need for massive self-disclosure. Of course, we’re interested in all you’re willing to share.

What Keeps Leaders Up at Night author, Nicole Lipkin shares her advice on this experiment.

“Make sure your crew of respondents understands that you need complete candor. As you record their answers, note the context. Your mother will see you differently than will your long time colleague at work. But this is also true: People will color their answers with their own self-protective biases, distortions, and rationalizations. Still whether you like what you hear or not, perceptions can influence people as much as pure reality. If someone perceives you as a control freak, you must deal with that perception, even if you know it does not usually describe the way you operate. The appearance of impropriety is as bad as the impropriety itself. Resist your natural urge to defend yourself.”

Who’s in. Game on Come on it’ll be fun! Please comment and let me know you’re gonna play.

Namaste. Let’s grow together.

How Stress is Hurting Your Career

You know stress is bad for your health. But what about your career? When results are rough the “obvious” answer is to work longer and harder. It’s sad to watch a passionate, hard-working leader shoot themselves in the foot with a stressful reaction. Don’t let stress destroy hard work or sabotage your progress.

Stress Sabotage Stories

(all names changed)

  • Sally worked late every night for weeks getting the numbers just right. She was exhausted. She knew the scenarios inside and out as she presented to the senior team. When an executive questioned the methodology, she began to cry. She knew the answer, but was too worked up to explain it. After all that work, they remember the tears more than the results.
  • Joe is a seasoned sales manager who’s passionate about his vision and driven to win. The competitor was gaining ground, and he was not happy. He frantically called for more meetings and action plans. He demanded improvement loudly. Stress rolled downhill. The team spent more time explaining the problem than selling.Results got worse.
  • Carol’s child was sick and the diagnosis was unclear. She was afraid to tell her boss or to take time off during this critical time in the business. She became distracted and dropped a few balls. Not knowing the whole story, her boss concluded she didn’t care.
  • Frank was “too committed to take vacation.” He worked long days and stayed connected every weekend. He stopped exercising and started drinking too much coffee. His cranky demeanor led his team to avoid telling him bad news He didn’t learn that the project was in jeopardy until it was too late to fix it.
  • Brenda is the ultimate multi-tasker. She gets a lot done, but she always seems frantic. Despite her strong track record of results, she’s not getting promoted due to concerns of “executive presence.”

The Cleveland Clinic provides a good summary of the signs and symptoms of stress. Hardly the conditions for elegant leadership.

Physical Cognitive Emotional Behavioral
Headaches Difficulty concentrating Anger Increased alcohol use
Backaches Forgetfullness Anxiety Cigarette smoking
Chest tightness Worrying Depression Increased caffeine use
Fatigue Thoughts of death Poor self-esteem Drug use
Stomach cramps Poor attention to detail Moodiness Violence
Difficulty breathing Perfectionist tendencies Suspiciousness Overeating
Diarrhea Indecisiveness Guilt Weight gain or loss
Loss of sexual interest Feeling helpless Weeping Relationship conflict
Insomnia Catastrophizing (blowing things out of prorportion) Loss of motivation Decreased activity

It’s easy to think the way out of a stressful situation is to push harder, deeper, and work longer. Taking the foot off your gas may get you further.

What would you add?

Rejected Again: How to Handle Rejection

The game of life involves more rejections than selections. If you’re always getting chosen, you’re not shooting high enough. You get it. But, rejection still sucks.

I am interviewing for a substantial and pivotal leadership position in my organization. The resumes are piling up fast with qualified candidates. I see the scurry of activity as candidates prepare. They’re doing their homework. Some candidates are those I’ve mentored recently. Others I’ve worked with in the past, or know by reputation. I also have a big pile of attractive “out of the woodwork” resumes filled with strong results and diverse experiences. I anticipate some great interviews. So many qualified candidates, and I get to choose one. Despite their backgrounds and efforts, the rest won’t be selected this time. Some will feel rejected. For those I’m closest to, it may feel personal. It’s not.

Not selected isn’t rejected

This scenario is playing out all over the world. How you handle rejected paves the path to future selection.

4 Ways To Handle Rejected

1. Stop The Negative Self-Talk

The harshest words won’t come from the person doing the rejecting. They’ll likely come from you. Don’t over interpret the “rejection.”

  • “I’m never going to get promoted”
  • “I will never be successful at this company”
  • “I don’t have what it takes”
  • “I don’t know how to play the game”
  • “Maybe I’m not that smart”
  • “It’s too late”
  • “I’m not cut out for this”
  • ?

2. Support the Selected Candidate

Early in my career, I lost out to a colleague for a promotion. Rejection comes early and often. My boss immediately took me aside and said,

“Everyone is going to watch how you react to this. I happen to think you’re the best qualified candidate. We could speculate all day about why he got selected over you. If you need to come into my office and shut the door and say all that crap once you can. But then let it go. Don’t let ANYONE else hear you say it.”

I’ve repeated those words many times over the last 20 years.

Take the high road. Smile. Congratulate. Support their success. Don’t engage with anyone who says, “it should have been you.” Okay, okay your spouse, dog, mentor and coach can know the truth. Be careful.

3. Ask For (and be ready to hear) Feedback

Ask for feedback from your interview and on your qualifications. Ask for straight talk. Be open to hear the reasons.

4. Keep Swimming

It’s natural and tempting to feel defeated. Keep leading. Keep working hard. Keep winning. You will need great results and a strong brand for the next time.

Information Underload: What Are You Missing?

The higher you grow in the organization, the more you work in sound bites. Process fast to look smart. Draw conclusions where others see only questions. Conclude with conviction. Make decisions and move the process along. Ask your team to “net it out.” You don’t need all that detailed information. Or do you?

The devil still basks in details.

“It’s entirely possible that you can process and file more information than anyone who has come before you. And quite likely that this filing is preventing you from growing and changing and confronting the fear that’s holding you back.”
~Seth Godin, “I Get It

Beware of Information Underload

Resist the urge to look smart. Stop filling in the blanks with lack of understanding. Don’t micromanage. Do get smarter.

Don’t assume

  • you know the type (she’s not “high-potential”)
  • the market won’t react well (it didn’t last time)
  • customers will hate it (they don’t like change)
  • this project won’t work (because a similar endeavor failed)
  • the union will resist (because they always do)
  • senior management won’t go for it (because it seems too risky)

It’s Not What You Know, But How You Know

Asking well encourages truth. Asking well empowers.

Empowerment doesn’t mean working in the dark.

Your team has

  • details
  • opinions
  • concerns
  • weird data they can’t explain
  • conclusions
  • possibilities
  • wacky next steps

They’ve likely been coached to “not go there.” “There” is exactly where you need to go. Make it safe to hear what you must. Build an environment where you hear what would otherwise be left on the editing room floor.

Some Ways

  • Show up everywhere (kindly)
  • Ask questions that don’t feel like tests
  • Smile and laugh as needed
  • Express your genuine thirst
  • Do something with what you hear (without getting anyone in trouble)
  • Recognize the great work you see
  • Invite yourself in advance to working meetings and then listen

Empowerment happens in the daylight Shine bright lights, and be deliberate in your reactions. Question, encourage, invite, excite, grow, develop.

Only then, will you have enough information.

Stupid Idea or Seeds of Brilliance?

The young leader came racing in my office, his “great idea” bursting from his heart. He had a plan and was ready to go. I listened to his enthusiastic outburst with mixed emotions. He had energy, passion, and commitment. Good start. But, it was a stupid idea.

My inside voice screamed…

  • No way
  • This idea will never work
  • I’ve seen this movie before (it doesn’t end well)
  • He hasn’t thought this through
  • He’s such a rookie
  • Bless his heart
  • ?

Then two more thoughts.

How do I challenge his thinking while sustaining his passion?


What if he’s right?

Stupid Ideas as Sparks

Given the choice of watering down passion, or needing to light a spark, I pick the over-energetic fire every time. Many stupid ideas work. Stupid ideas make people rich. Others don’t.


  • ignite possibility
  • scaffold from experience
  • ask important questions
  • inspire past stupid

Sustain the Passion, Question the Process

9 Steps for Supporting a Stupid Idea

  1. Acknowledge “wow” be impressed by the passion, committment and energy
  2. Listen with an open mind
  3. Ask lots of questions (tone matters here).
    – Why this? (start with genuine curiosity)
    – What’s the bigger issue?
    – Why is this approach best?
    – Who’s involved so far?
    – Who should be?
    – What resources are required?
    – What are the potential side effects?
  4. Be honest in your apprehension.. share your concerns from a loving place
  5. Clarify the vision, and brainstorm additional ways to get there
  6. Listen more
  7. Consider a pilot
  8. Allow time to think
  9. Set up time to meet again

What would you add?

June Frontline Festival: Conflict Edition

This month’s Frontline Festival is all about conflict and conflict resolution. I am grateful to all the wonderful contributors for sharing their insights on this important topic. If you have written a post on conflict, feel free to add a link to it in the comments section.

Root Causes of Conflict

I like this post from Jesse Lyn Stoner of Seapoint Center because she examines conflict from a systems perspective, showing how we can miss the opportunity to clarify and resolve the deeper, underlying issues if we just assume conflict between two people is a personality conflict. 5 Tips to Ensure Your Values Unify Your Team, Not Divide It

Conflict Begins With You

Lolly Daskal of Lead From Within offers a trilogy of posts that examine the root causes of conflict.

Every conflict starts with SELF. and as a leader from within, you must self manage and self regulate.

As a leader, you are comparing yourself to others that makes you feel less than self so it causes CONFLICT. Leadership Beyond Compare

 As a leader do you give yourself permission to honor yourself so you don’t feel depleted and you are more incline to handle conflict because you are NOT feeling stretched emotionally. Honor Yourself

As a leader do you have blind spots of self and they are causing conflict and you don’t even realize what you are projecting onto others. Strangers Unto Yourself. She continues, “SO in my coaching with leaders around the world and my facilitation on the subject of “conflict resolution” is always taking stock of SELF and looking in the mirror. The best leaders look within first for conflict resolution.”

The Positive Side of Conflict

Joy and Tom Guthrie of Vizwerxs share the conflict pic on the left. I have had the delight of working with them on art for my next keynote. A great creative duo.

Henna Inam of Transformational Leadership shares 5 Steps to Embrace Conflict. My favorite line, “Every conflict has within it the opportunity for positive change – the transformation of the problem through the transformation of those engaged in the conflict.”

John Hunter, of Curious Cat shares I wish more people objected to bad ideas, even if doing so risks conflict. Far too often we are so fearful of the potential downsides of addressing issues that might be contentious that we avoid those issues and just accept the damage they cause. This is not wise. This sub-optimizes overall performance to minimize conflict. We need to be able to address contentious issues effectively even if that means dealing with conflict.

Joan Kofodimos of Teleos Consulting Learn to Love Conflict. I particularly like her list of “prescriptive beliefs about what should be true.”

Terri Klass of Terri Klass Consulting explains the difference between toxic and productive conflict in her post, What’s a Leader to Do About Confict?

Lisa Kohn of Chatsworth Consulting Group presents Conflict is good – five ways to make it even better! on The Thoughtful LeadersÔ Blog where she presents a few simple, but not so easy, steps to take that can help make conflict more effective and productive.

Conflict Management Tips and Tools

Blair Glaser of Blair Glaser shares her witty yet poignant view of manage conflicts in relationships in her post How to Have the Same Fight Over and Over

Jennifer V. Miller of The People Equation reminds us of the snowball effects of snappy remarks in The Snowball Effect: When Small Workplace Offenses Grow Out of Control

Dan McCarthy of Great Leadership shares his recent post, How to Handle 3 Types of Conflict. Conflicts of needs, conflicts of emotions, and conflicts of values.

Matt McWilliams of Matt McWiliams offers practical advice for managing conflict with dominant and controlling types in his post, Conflict and the High D.

Sridhar Laxman of Lucid Minds Coaching shares his views on dealing with difficult co workers. My favorite tip, “Fight fire with water, resolve to stay calm while your coworker fumes.”

Linda Fisher Thornton of Leading in Context shares How to Not Lead Through Conflict. A practical list for leaders managing in high-conflict arenas.

Greg Richardson of The Strategic Monk, reminds us of the folly of arguing to just to win in his post, Argument vs. Persuasion: Winning Vs. Winning Over.

Tanveer Naseer of Tanveer Naseer draws on an exceptional customer service experience for tips on how to diffuse conflict in his post 4 Keys to Successfully Resolving Conflicts in the Workplace

New to the Festival, John Stoker, of Dialogue Works shares his post Managing Conflict With Ease. He extends lessons learned in childhood to provide practical advice for grown-ups.

Wally Bock, of 3 Star Leadership, shares his post Confrontation and Splinters. Confrontation is uncomfortable, but if you don’t learn to handle it well, you can’t be a good boss.

Conflict, Fear and Frustration

Bob Winchester, Culture Ninja, shares Handling Conflict in the Workplace. What I love most about his post is that he goes back and edits it and let’s us see his mind shift. Well played.

“I’ve learned a lesson since I first wrote this that requires me to make an edit here. Sometimes, it isn’t that people don’t care. It may just appear that they don’t care. Maybe they had a bad day or maybe they don’t care about the same issues that you do. Either way, people are complex. They care about some things and care less about others; that doesn’t make them bad. I have to be careful in making judgments like that, because they do more harm than good.”

Greg Marcus, of Idolbuster takes on the angle of personal organizational conflict in his post, 3 Options if Your Values Conflict With Company Culture. He reminds of our important choices.

Dan Forbes of Lead With Giants draws a metaphor between organizational conflict and computer virus in his post, 6 Lessons of Leadership Malware.

Frank Sonnenberg Online describes the role fear holds in conflict situations in his post, Fear the Silent Killer.

Coming Next:

July’s Festival is all about Teams and Teamwork. Submissions due July 12th. I’m working on the topic calendar for the remainder of the year. Please comment with suggestions on future Frontline Festival topics.

Previous Frontline Festivals:

The Benefits of Deeper Questions

Why don’t you ask deeper questions? Are you more afraid of the questions or the answers?

Deeper questions

  • Uncover concerns
  • Shift the conversation
  • Invite transparency
  • Shift the mood
  • Provoke deeper thinking

Asking Deeper Questions

“Live your questions now, and perhaps even without knowing it, you will live along some distant day into your answers.”Rainer Maria Rilke

Asking Deeper Questions of Yourself

It starts by asking yourself deeper questions. In her TED Talk Christine Comaford, shares the importance of finding “your one big question.” The finding (and answering) of this “question” is a way to “intentionally evolve. She invites listeners to 1) reveal yourself 2) stand for yourself and 3) get still as you look for your questions.

Asking Deeper Questions Of Others

When, asking questions of others, pause and give yourself time to formulate the best question. Proactively plan your deeper questions as you plan your day. Make a point of asking at least one deeper question in any significant meeting you attend.

Power Questions by Andrew Sobel and Jerold Panas and StoryCorps are great resources to help you plan deeper questions for a variety of circumstances.

I asked Andrew Sobel to share the best questions for three of the most challenging topics for frontline leaders: dealing with disengagement, building confidence, and helping someone feeling overwhelmed.

“Sometimes the simplest question is the best. For example, ask your people often, ‘What do you think?’ Or, ‘How can I be helpful to you right now?’ Ask personal questions–‘How did you get your start?’ Turn statements into questions. Instead of, ‘We really need to burn the midnight oil if we’re going to hit our targets this month” ask “Here’s what we’re up against. What are your thoughts?”
~Andrew Sobel

Addressing Disengagement

  1. What is the one thing we could do to make it easier for you to do your job effectively? 
  2. What can I do to help you be more effective in your job? 
  3. What makes you proud—or not proud—to work here? 
  4. What’s the most and least engaging part of your work? 

Building Confidence

  1. What options are you considering right now? 
  2. What do you think are the pros and cons? 
  3. What do you think you should do? 
  4. What is most puzzling or difficult about this?
  5. What have you done in the past in similar or analogous situations? 
  6. What’s your biggest unanswered question about this situation?
  7. Who do you think has the right experience to help you with this? 

Helping the Overwhelmed

  1. What’s something that’s very hard to do for you but which would really help you be more successful? If there were no constraints—what could help make it happen? 
  2. How can I help you right now?
  3. What people or resources would be helpful to you right now?