Tag Archives: Leadership

The Power of the “Ask”

Challenging most, if not all of us, is an internal battle over how we often assume on others their motive or reasons rather than ask directly.  I suspect we tend to default to assumptions more commonly, which raises the question of why. What in us compels us to focus on imaginings rather than offered truth from the source? Our reasons are likely varied and usually justified in our minds. As leaders, however, I believe this key internal battle needs addressing towards a different approach for the sake of those we lead. Assuming leads to mistrust from others, while asking questions honors and elevates their perspective as valuable in the matter.

So, what goes into a good and healthy “ask”? First, our intention to listen towards understanding is a must. Going through the motions to feign value for their explanation creates greater mistrust when it becomes obvious their input didn’t matter in our subsequent actions.  If you find yourself not really interested in understanding, take some time to step back and reflect as to why. Only move forward with questioning when you can honestly work from that motivation.

Second, the specific kind of “ask” you offer is important. Clear, direct and honoring questions have a way of bringing what is valued to the forefront for both you who are asking and those who are responding. In most circumstances, an “ask” that is more open-ended gives greater opportunity for the responder to give their own thoughts without any type of “answer-prompting”. At a core relational level, asking for one’s perspective to help you understand them reflects your respect for them. Doing so consistently serves as connection points of trust-building that supports deepening relationship through time and circumstances. Impactful leaders understand this truth and make it a priority in their leadership culture.

The following are a few examples of “asks” (i.e. open-ended questions) that can help bring understanding…

  • “Can you help me understand your reaction just now to what I said?”
  • “What are your thoughts on the directions/choices I just presented?”
  • “Would you elaborate more about __________?”
  • “What am I missing in your explanation?”
  • “How do you see us moving forward?”
  • “How does the process work now?”
  • “What kind of challenges are you facing in this circumstance?”
  • “What is your most important priority to you with this and why?
  • “You used the term(s) ________________. Can you explain what that means to you?”
  • “You said you are frustrated – can you share with me what has caused this?”

As you relate to others, think about the times you assume on other’s motives or actions. Purpose to instead use the power of the “Ask”.  Doing so builds meaningful relationships of trust and honor with those you serve and further esteems the value of authentic honesty.

Mark Francis


Others-centered Self-awareness

All of us, at some point, have been challenged by what others perceive as our “real selves”. Regardless of how often this happens, our reactions to their perceptions can range from feeling gut-punched or angry to overwhelmingly encouraged. How often, would you say, others accurately describe your own thoughts of who you believe you are, including your attitudes and behaviors?   Now consider those around you…how are they feeling about what others perceive of them? Taken together, it is easy to see how relationships can get messy quick, many times based on false assumptions of one another. However, we can help create accurate awareness of others and their lives leading to fulfilling and authentic relationships, no matter their purpose.

How can we minimize the impacts of misunderstanding one another? Here are a few thoughts to encourage change:

  1. Resist Assumptions – Be ruthless with yourself anytime you assume anything. Practice recognizing when you do it and especially when you make decision based on it. Ask others to help you assess and better understand when you make assumptions with them. Sensitivity to your own heart grows in the light of offered transparency and accountability.
  2. Ask Questions towards Understanding – Clarifying questions become windows into the heart. All of us fundamentally want to define ourselves to others. Doing so helps us own our own path, and helps others see the real us.
  3. Invite Feedback – Making room for personal input from others in our life helps create increased sensitivity to the realness of our life. When we ask the question of ourselves on a regular basis, we strengthen our “others-centered” vision to look for the same in those around us.

Living life with others, whether at work or in our personal lives, can only be authentic and life-giving to the degree we continually grow our others-centered self-awareness. To be seen accurately by others becomes both a gift and a growth path to each of us. To offer the same to others strengthens your union with them and creates capacity for growth through all seasons. As leaders, this gift and growth path is ours to give to each person in our care. Let’s give it our best!


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