Leaders Inspire by the Way They Inquire

” ‘Search’ has made us all drive-by scholars,” writes Gregory Rodriguez last week in his column in the Los Angeles Times entitled, “Answers Can Be Found in Questions” . He addresses the fundamental value of inquiry, a skill that is waining in our society, as he points out.

He cites a newly published book by Andrea Batista Schlesinger entitled, The Death of “Why?”, The Decline of Questioning and the Future of Democracy. Batista Schlesinger writes: “The way we interact with information reveals the priority we place on trivia over investigation, consumption over explanation, speed over reflection…”

Coincidentally, just this week I finished writing a paper with my colleagues that addresses the value of skilled inquiry when seeking to engage employees in tough times. We look at some of the “political” issues related to how the questions of performance and potential are framed in R&D; organizations. We review four ways our clients have validated success with skillful inquiry:(1) listening posts; (2) cascading conversations; (3) skip-level meetings; and (4) barrier-busting by managers.

In our experience the “political” nature of any inquiry about performance and potential in the R&D; space, both organizational and individual, will either deepen employee commitment through this economic downturn or perpetuate more cynicism and distrust.

As Rodriguez’ column highlights, the value and power of inquiry is being compromised with consequences we may not realize in the immediacy of our “search”.

Leaders inspire by the way they inquire!