“Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.” ― Voltaire
THE IDEA: “Children enter school as question marks,” writes educator Neil Postman, “and leave as periods.” We
enter the world as a sponge, soaking up information provided to us by teachers, parents, and coaches. The more
information we glean, the more assured we feel in our grasp of the world; yet true wisdom occurs when we
reassess our views, and critically evaluate the opinions of others. We’re in a culture that struggles to self-critique
and rewards blindly confident behaviors. Most leaders are rewarded for parroting back “bite sized” pieces of
information instead of asking difficult questions. As you reflect on next week, consider three questions.
HOW DO YOU SHOW UP?
According to research by psychologist and executive coach Dr. Tasha Eurich, 95% of people think they are very self-
aware. Her research shows that it’s closer to 10-15%. None of us see ourselves as clearly as we believe, setting us
up for a communication failure.
Soft skills matter more now than ever before. This reality has been acknowledged at the highest levels of business,
including digital giants like Google. Google’s “Project Oxygen” reported that among the most important qualities
of Google’s top employees, technical expertise – came in dead last. The top seven characteristics of success at
Google are soft skills: coaching, listening, perception, empathy, supporting others, problem solving and critical
Additionally, Google’s “Project Aristotle” analyzed data on creative and productive teams within their organization.
The highest performing teams exhibited strong soft skills including:
- Emotional safety
Empathy and personal connection have been pushed to the wayside for far too long in lieu of overconfidence and
left-brain analytics. The best partners build personal relationships based on forward-thinking insights and mutually
beneficial agreements. The soft skills matter now more than ever before. If you want to be a better partner you
must be a better communicator, collaborator, facilitator, listener, and critical thinker. In other words, be more
DO YOU SET CLEAR EXPECTATIONS?
The difference between success and failure is an expectation. Consider this, you can be doing great work, but if
your boss expects something different, you may be failing and don’t even realize it. In a hyper-competitive,
stressed-out world, expectation management is everything. Do you set them clearly?
According to the productivity tracking company I Done This, 4-of-10 activities on a to-do list are never completed.
When you set up a laundry list of goals and priorities, you will undoubtedly get lost in the weeds and miss the most
important expectations. Are you constantly reassessing your expectations on critical priorities? Are you checking in
with all parties involved, be they peers, managers, or customers, to verify everyone has level-set expectations and
clearly outlined goals?
DO YOU DELIBERATELY PRATICE?
Is there one new skill you are deliberately practicing? Are you investing enough time reflecting, reading, and
challenging your own thinking each week? Do you model ownership like the founder of a small family business?
Are you thinking broadly, holistically, and curiously about your operation? Today’s most effective leaders (at all
levels) are bigger picture thinkers, embracing a General Manager, Start-up Mindset.
All customers are looking for companies who are more entrepreneurial, and creative in their problem solving. A
General Management Mindset recognizes that sales leaders are now multi-faceted. It’s a hybrid role and you play
many positions. Everyone must become broader thinkers because we are asked to do more. We must be a
facilitator and a moderator, not a presenter. And you must be gifted at managing an ecosystem of resources and
relationships, none of which is in a vacuum and all of which influence one another.
We all must be practicing a new set of competencies including fast learning. Instead of designing a perfect
business plan, we must be now adept at pivoting and adapting our plan in real time.
We are now living in a world where empathy, expectation management and adaptation skills are a lifeblood. How
do you hope to show up and are what are you practicing?
“I would rather have questions that can’t be answered than answers that can’t be questioned.”
― Richard Feynman