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5 Questions Effective Leaders Ask

Generally, leaders are supposed to be the ones with all the answers. But you probably know that the best leaders have as many questions as answers. So here are five questions an effective leader may want to ask themself. If you aren’t asking these questions, maybe you should be.

What is My Level of Self-Awareness?

Self-awareness in leadership is defined as understanding how your personality traits, habits, and abilities affect your interactions with the people around you, like your team, particularly in the workplace.

Self-awareness is one of the critical elements of emotional intelligence (EI), coined by psychologist Michael Beldoch and widely popularized by Daniel Goleman, who refers to emotional intelligence as a person’s ability to identify and manage their emotions and identify and influence others’ emotions.

Effective Leaders who are self-aware actively reflect on how others perceive their words and actions. They often work to change their shortcomings or faults in order to lead their teams better and more effectively. Self-awareness leads to personal control and growth and helps leaders use their strengths to guide teams to the best possible outcomes.

Why is Self-Awareness in Leadership Important?

Being self-aware is a crucial cornerstone to effective leadership for the following reasons:

  • It helps leaders manage their behavior and relationships more effectively.
  • Self-aware leaders are mindful of how their actions impact the future outcomes of the company.
  • It allows leaders to understand what they bring to their role, both strengths and weakness.
  • Effective leaders know how to balance what they would like to see their team accomplish and their vision for the group.

What is My Development Plan for Myself and My People?

A development plan is a leadership tool that outlines learning goals to improve leadership and team capabilities. A development plan matters because leadership can be subjective, and people have varying skills related to their leadership.

There are two plans you’ll want to make sure you’ve established. First, there’s your plan: the leadership development plan. This is a detailed plan that helps you set your career toward advanced leadership skills and roles.

Then there’s your teams’ development plan. This is aimed at identifying the collective learning needs of the group, such as the teams’ purpose and capabilities needed to achieve goals and what support each team member requires from colleagues to achieve personal development goals.

How Do I Train Myself and My Team for the Unexpected?

It’s common knowledge in the professional world that one should expect the unexpected, especially after the pandemic. However, putting in the effort to address these unforeseen circumstances with your team is much more complex than just acknowledging them.

Communication is Key

Communication is a critical part of having a successful team, no matter the industry. When things go south, it is especially important to have a proper communication strategy in place to build trust. A great example would be to communicate with your team about previous events that have happened or could happen in the future. Be proactive — it helps let your team know what you anticipate, expect, and hear, including the good, the bad, and the ugly. The more informed and knowledgeable your team, the stronger, more in-tune, and prepared they’ll be for unexpected events.

Reflect Then Act

There is often clarity in the chaos, if you know how to look for it. Being an effective leader means reflecting on what has occurred or why can make all the difference in how you respond to it. The first moments after an unexpected event occurs are often the worst, and this can be the most challenging time to manage. It can be hard to process the change that’s going on. By giving yourself time to think and reflect, you’ll be able to make better-informed decisions.

Change Your Mindset

Start getting into a mindset where you expect something unexpected to happen, like a shift, or a curveball, or even an instant breakthrough event. Then, you can shift your attention from an unforeseen event that seems like a big problem and focus instead on finding the solution. When you redirect your mind to searching for a solution and not just looking at the problem, you regain your sense of control, and as a result, you start to see things differently and become a more effective leader.

Where is the Data Coming From? What is it Showing Me?

There is more data at your fingertips than ever before. It has become critical to organizational success. Data can help your company become more efficient. It helps to streamline business processes, improve the customer experience, guide strategy, and drive ROI. Without it, your company may be missing out on opportunities.

When you have a “data-driven” approach, it means you make strategic decisions based on data analysis and interpretation which makes you more effective leader. A data-driven approach enables companies and leaders to examine and organize their data with the goal of better serving their customers and consumers.

Don’t fall for the anecdotal emotional stories that move people’s feelings. Feelings often get confused as facts or data.

Developing solutions from these metrics will not be quick or easy. These are not single installations, but rather multiyear commitments to capturing data and building models.

Establishing reliable data takes time. Data quality is an issue everywhere; so too is the need for a common data language that allows organizations to know they measure what they intend to measure.

Change management has become increasingly more test-driven as well. It is teaching leaders to use data to make people-related decisions.

 Data can transform your approach to change:

  • It provides a “real-time” check on change progress.
  • Analyzing change helps improve performance over time.
  • You can use it to enhance selection and assessment.
  • You can use it to engage key stakeholders.

Am I Inspecting What I Expect?

After you set up expectations, explain the new change, and go about doing it, you must follow up with your sales team.

Following up with your team reinforces excellent performance and behavior and provides necessary feedback. If you fail to “inspect what you expect,” people will pick up on that quickly and be less compelled to do what is asked of them. Following up keeps everyone on track and allows for strong accountability.

To be an effective leader make sure you check-in with your team to see how they are handling the changes. Ask for input again, and make adjustments if necessary. It is essential to follow up with your team to understand how the change is working or not working. The feedback you gather will help develop corrective actions and reinforce good behavior.

Make sure you are constantly checking:

  • That your direction was clear and concise.
  • If your team is capable of doing the job.
  • That your team needs more resources.
  • If your team is motivated.

Holding your team accountable will help you hit your goal and validate how on track you are for the rest of the year.

In the End

Knowing which questions to ask yourself can improve your leadership traits and make you a more effective leader. These five questions help provide direction, increase knowledge, promote engagement, and help with decision-making. Are you asking them yet?

About Steve Hoeft

Steve is a Partner, VP Client Services at Pivotal Advisors. Leadership has been forefront in his career for over 20 years. He has also been a Vice President of Sales for a number of companies in Minnesota. Steve has been a guest speaker for many groups such as Sales Leaders Roundtable, Trust Vets, Marine Corps Events and more. If you want to find out more about Steve check out his profile here.
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