Sometimes one well-placed question can change everything.
I recently heard a well-known leadership expert describe a question that changed everything for him. He described himself as a person who felt he was usually right about most decisions and plans. He, half-jokingly, said he would often tell staff members that things could go much faster and easier if they would just do it the way he wanted. He believed his singular perspective was king.
That was until he discovered a question that changed his outlook and which he has been asking consistently ever since. The question: “What am I missing?”
Instead of insisting on his way of doing a project, or even if the proposal in mind was the right one, he began asking others closest to him, “What am I missing?”
The results were immediately noticeable: This leader recognized that others brought valuable wisdom and insights to the projects or proposals being considered.
Why should leaders ask this question? Here are five reasons:
- It promotes humility.
- It encourages participation.
- It makes our work better.
- It generates buy-in.
- It screams to other people, “Your thoughts and input are important around here.”
Who should ask, “What am I missing”?
- Pastors should ask: Pastors who are considering a major program or initiative for their church will benefit by asking for the perspective and input of others. If a pastor is considering leading the church in an outreach program, then the input of Deacons, Sunday School teachers, and other key leaders could be the difference between failure and success.
- Elected officials should ask: Those who are placed in positions of leadership would do well to occasionally ask the question, “What am I missing?” Most of us have heard the well-worn adage, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.” That saying, for elected leaders, means that the constituents who cry the loudest will gain the greatest hearing. The problem, however, is there are many who will never be heard. Those placed in positions of authority to do good for others (Romans 13:4) must make sure they are serving their constituents well. They will serve better by asking for the input of others.
- Business leaders should ask: Sometimes when business is going well, the tendency is to just enjoy the blessings coming one’s way. However, business leaders must often ask what they are missing due to the sudden change in one’s market and the potential for new trends.
- Parents and families should ask: Every young couple, without children, has unwittingly judged the parenting decisions they observe being made by others. When that same couple becomes parents, they realize that parenting decisions can be complicated. Each family will benefit, when important decisions present themselves, by asking, “What are we missing?”
In my role with the Kentucky Baptist Convention, I work with some of the best and brightest talent in Christian ministry in our state. I also serve hundreds of pastors, associational leaders, and ministry heads who are at the top of their game in serving Christ with fresh energy and the gifts and power He supplies. I lead at my best when I take an idea that I hope has come from the Lord, write out some details, and then gain the input and perspective of others. When I ask the question, “What am I missing?” I soon discover the answer is that I was missing a lot.
What are you working on currently that could be made better if you listened to the thoughts and perspective of others? Give it a try. Go ask a trusted friend or co-worker, “What am I missing?” Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to let me know what you discovered.