The Way I Respond as a Leader of Leaders

I often get asked about the difference between leading leaders and leading followers. It’s a great question. The question ultimately points to a paradigm of leading people.

I certainly know I want to attract and retain leaders on our team. I don’t want a bunch of people waiting for me to make a decision or who fail to take initiative. I ultimately want people who will lead me. 

I also realize I am not a perfect leader. I have so much room to personally grow as a leader. One thing I have discovered, however, is the difference in how I lead if I want to lead leaders. And, the difference is huge.

I could choose to be a boss – and simply require people to perform for pay. To lead leaders requires a different skill set. It challenges the way I lead. 

As a leader of leaders…

I say, “I don’t know, I’ll have to find out” a lot. I can’t have all the answers. I need to be leading people – encouraging them to lead – more than I’m instructing people.

I often “didn’t know about that” – whatever “that” is – until after a decision has been made. And, if I’m leading well you won’t hear me say anything negative about what I don’t know, because I support my team’s ability to make decisions.

I encourage learning from someone besides me. After all, I don’t have all the answers. Some days, without my team, I don’t have any.

I let people make mistakes. And, I’m glad they let me make some too. It’s one of the best ways we learn from life and each other.

I try to steer discussion more than have solutions. And, I find meetings become more productive. Work becomes more efficient.

I believe in dreams other than my own. People have opinions and ideas. The best ones aren’t always mine.

I say “we” more than I say “me”. (Except in this post) A team is more powerful than an individual effort.

I strive to empower more than I control. Leadership stalls when we try to determine the outcome. It thrives when we learn and practice good delegation.

I’m not afraid of being challenged by those on our team. I’m not saying it “feels good” to be critiqued, but I know it’s a part of making us better.

I seldom script the way to achieve the vision. In fact, I never script it alone. I try to always include those who have to implement the plan into the creation of the plan. And, by experience, it seems to be a more effective way to do things.

Do you lead leaders? What would you add?

4 Realities The Senior Leader Sets for Every Organization

One reason leadership can make a person feel isolated is the weight of responsibility on the one who claims to be the senior leader in an organization. Whether in the business world, in non-profits or in churches, there are some things which happen in any organization that senior leaders help determine – whether intentional or not. In each of these cases, inactivity also determines them just as much as activity.

The weight of this responsibility can be overwhelming at times, but it’s unavoidable to a point. It comes with the position.

Successful senior leaders are cognizant of their input in these areas and place intentional energy towards them.

Here are 4 realities set by the senior leader:

Vision

The senior leader is the ordained caretaker of the organization’s vision. The vision may be predetermined by a board, or in the church’s sense, obviously by Jesus, but all leaders place his or her spin on implementing the vision. At the end of the day the senior leader is held responsible for seeing that the organization’s vision is attained. And, inactivity towards this will – as stated previously – also determines the vision – at least the perceived vision of the organization. If the vision is not clearly defined other people will determine it for you.

Values

The senior leader helps shape – as much as anyone – the culture of the organization. A chief role of senior leadership is protecting the value integrity of the organization. Much of the character of the organization will be determined or maintained by the way this person leads and they way the leader lives his or her life. This is so true in the life of a church. The moral integrity of a church will seldom be greater than the pastor’s personal moral integrity.

Victories

Senior leaders determine what matters to an organization. He or she ultimately defines a win by setting end goals primarily by what is most celebrated, acknowledged or rewarded. An organization cannot do everything and this individual’s leadership determines priorities, initiatives and major objectives to be accomplished. Senior pastors are one of the single greatest influences of what a church does well by the intentionality – or lack thereof – towards the things it labels a win.

Velocity

The Senior leader ultimately sets the speed by which the organization will operate. The lead person is in the role of balancing present tasks and future opportunities. His or her individual pace and expectations of others determines how fast the organization functions, changes, adapts, and responds. The lead pastor also sets the pace – fast or slow – of the church in accomplishing her mission.

Most organizations will have a governing body – board of directors, stakeholders or elders – to oversee the organization, hire the senior pastor or CEO and hold title to the organization, but it is ultimately the person in this role who daily carries out these four functions. A senior leader can delegate, form a great team environment, seek wise counsel, or even shirk his or her responsibility, but to fulfill the role of the senior leader effectively there are some responsibilities that rest solely with this position. 

Whether or not the senior leader consciously recognizes his or her role in accomplishing these tasks, by sheer position he or she is determining the way the organization performs in these four areas.

Are you a senior leader in your organization? Do you feel the weight of these responsibilities? Do you understand your important role in setting these four principles of the organization?

5 Ways Ministry Leaders Start the Journey to Failure

One of the hardest things I do in ministry is interact with those who are no longer in ministry, but wish they were. They’ve been derailed. They messed up and either they got caught or the guilt got the best of them and they confessed.

In recent years, I’ve had numerous ministry friends who lost their ministry due to moral failure, poor leadership, or simply burnout.

You should know I’m huge proponent for applying grace. I do not believe failure has to define a person indefinitely. The reality is, however, we lose good, effective ministry leaders because they begin to make dumb mistakes. It breaks my heart. If there were any way to stop it – or minimize it – I would certainly try to do so.

That is the point of this post.

Watching this process over the years there appear to be some common reasons failure occurs. It doesn’t start at the failure. It starts months – and, perhaps years – prior. My hope is if we expose some of them we can catch a few people before it is too late.

So, let me ask, do any of these apply to you?

Here are the 5 ways leaders start to fail:

Thinking it couldn’t happen to me.

I have heard this so many times. The leader thinks they are fool proof. They don’t believe the statistics include them. They don’t need the accountability of others. Their marriage is secure. The things which tempt others don’t tempt them. 

Can I be a word of caution? It can. It can. It can. Yes, even to you! Should I remind you the enemy prowls around like a roaring lion?
Refusing to listen to others.

In my experience, God will attempt to rescue those in jeopardy. Refusing to listen to oth re often dismisses the voice of God. When a leader closes his or herself from the counsel of others they are essentially putting out a welcome mat for temptation to overtake them. 

Do you need to heed wise counsel? 

Overestimating personal value.

Pride goes before the fall. Oh, how true this warning from Scripture has been proven to me over the years. Whenever I think too highly of myself I set myself up for failure. Those who seek their own applause get phony claps.

Be honest, do you see yourself as better, smarter, or more valuable than those you lead? Do you think you’re irreplaceable? 

Underestimating the value of others.

Prior to a fall leaders often become guarded in what they release to others. They are over-protective. They attempt to control outcomes. They dismiss the opinions of people on their team. 

Do you realize the worth of a team? Do you understand the value other people bring to the table? Do you solicit advice? 

You’re on a slow fade.

Failure never starts at the bottom or really even experiences a free fall. It’s a gradual decline over time. It’s allowing temptation to become” little” sin and a bunch of “little” sins to become a “big” sin. 

Have you begun to make excuses for some of your behaviors? Have you drifted from some of your normal healthy disciplines? When you compare your life today to even a year ago – do you  see a slow fade occurring?

Those are a few signs I’ve seen of a coming failure. 

Do you need the warning?

I can also remind you – You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you. No temptation has seized you except what’s common to man. When tempted, God provides a way out. 

Perhaps this post is one way God will attempt to get your attention. 

I’m hopeful you’ll find a safe place to get help if needed. It would be better to make yourself vulnerable than to allow yourself to be a statistic. 

5 Ways to Take Back an Already Delegated Project

I’m a fan of delegation. In fact, I consider myself somewhat of a professional delegator, if there is such a thing. I certainly love to delegate. I think it makes the team stronger.

As a leader, have you ever given away a project and wished you could take it back?

It doesn’t happen often, but when it does it can be one of the more difficult and awkward parts of leadership.

Maybe it was the wrong fit for the person. Perhaps the person was overloaded with other responsibilities. You may have misjudged their potential, so you gave them the delegation. Now you wish you hadn’t.

What do you do?

How do you take back a delegated project without causing hurt feelings, injuring a valued team member, or causing disruption in the organization? Many times the person has assumed a certain sense of ownership and pride in the assignment, even if they haven’t done a good job with it. Taking the project away from them may feel like personal rejection.

What do you do? How do you do it?

Here are 5 ways to take back a delegated project:

Set up the right to remove on the front end

The process should really be clear from the beginning. The culture of a healthy organization has everyone operating as a team. It’s easier to do the right thing on a healthy team – even reassign an project. You may not be able to do it this time, but certainly work towards establishing that kind of environment for the future.

Make sure you delegate well

Effective delegation will eliminate much of the need to take back a project. You can read more about healthy delegation HERE and HERE, but basically, try to help. This can happen at any stage in the project, but ideally should come before and during the process of completing a delegated project. It could be the person doesn’t have all the answers or all the resources to complete what’s been assigned. They may be afraid to ask for help.

Do it quickly

As soon as you realize the person is not going to be able to complete the task, if you’ve tried working with them, but it hasn’t helped, address and re-assign as soon as possible. The longer you wait the harder it will be for everyone.

Do it graciously

If done correctly, it could be a relief for them, as well as the organization. You may be able to refocus the person’s attention on other things, but certainly you should try to encourage their overall potential in the process.

Help them learn

They may not have been able to do this particular project, but, if handled correctly, it could end up being beneficial for their personal development. Help them see what they did wrong, why the delegated task is being reassigned, and how they could do things differently in the future.

The bottom line is the organization must move forward. Sometimes this means tasks have to be reassigned. Good leaders are willing to make hard decisions, even if it means taking back a delegated project.

Have you ever had to take back a delegated project? How did you do it?

5 Questions to Help Millennials Grow into Leadership

A Guest Post by my son, Jeremy Chandler

There will come a point in time in every Millennial’s career when we move from being primarily executioners to leading teams and managing others. Whether you’re a young pastor moving from a youth ministry role into a more administrative role, or you’re account manager moving into a supervisor role, there will be a day when our primary responsibility shifts from doing the work ourselves to accomplishing the work through other people. However, as I’ve started making that transition in my own personal career, I’ve definitely learned the truth behind the idea that “everyone thinks leadership is easy until you become one.”

I’ve had to face some challenging questions for the first time…

How do I move from a “doer” role to a “manager” role? How do I change my mindset to effectively move from “hands on” role to one of directing and overseeing a team?

The short answer is… it’s not easy. The paradox I’m learning is that answering those questions begins by asking another set of questions.

The Higher You Go, The Harder it is to Define “Success”

When we start our careers in more of an execution type of role, it’s easy to earn our stripes by what we can do. As we grow and get promoted, we start to get paid less for what we can do and more for what we know. The higher we go, the less defined our job description becomes. Our success depends on our ability to make other people feel powerful to get things done.

However, we still need something we can measure our work and effort by at the end of the day. That can be a challenge when our entire lives have been measured by meeting deadlines, cranking out projects. There’s definitely a mental shift that needs to take place.

5 Questions to Help Millennials Grow into Leadership

How can Millennials know if we’re being successful as we make the transition from doers to leaders? Here are 5 questions we can use to measure our efforts to determine, “Did I do what a leader should have done today?”

  1. Am I asking the right questions? Successful leadership isn’t about having all the answers; it’s about being able to find them by asking better questions.
  2. Am I listening for the best answers? We all know what it’s like to work for “know it all leaders.” The only way to avoid this is by disciplining ourselves to listen to the ideas of others.
  3. Am I taking time to think about our biggest problems and opportunities? This can feel weird, especially if we’ve been primarily in a “doer” role. It can feel lazy. However, this is an essential part of leadership. It’s the leader’s responsibility to look up and ask, “Are we even on the right road?”
  4. Am I effectively communicating the plan to our team and setting expectations? Successful teams are built on clear communication and direction. If we don’t communicate the plan or set expectations, we force the team to make assumptions.
  5. Am I stepping back to evaluate the strategy and observe the impact? Evaluation and experimentation are two words that are an essential part of leadership vocabulary. Are the things we’re doing working? Is our hypothesis right? Are the things we’re doing moving us closer toward achieving our goals? These are the types of questions leaders ask.

A Word of Encouragement Before You Step into Leadership

Stepping into a leadership role for the first time isn’t easy. It’s a big shift from where we’ve been.

  • Do your best.
  • Be Yourself.
  • Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know.”

You’re not in leadership because you have all the answers; you’re in leadership because you’re going to help solve problems. My hope is that after a couple of years of doing it, leading others will feel as natural for us as putting our clothes on in the morning.

What questions do you ask to ensure you are becoming an effective leader?

This is a guest post from my son, Jeremy Chandler. Currently, Jeremy serves as a Marketing Manager at Pursuant, a fundraising agency serving the nation’s leading nonprofits, faith-based ministries, and churches. He and his wife Mary live in Nashville, TN. If you’re in the area, he jumps at any opportunity to connect with people over coffee.

Stop Seeing the Bible as a Reference Book

A guest post by Chandler Vannoy

Dictionary.

Thesaurus.

Encyclopedia.

We all know what these are. These are all reference books, and a reference book is only used when you need to use it as a source to make a point. The definition reads, “a book intended to be consulted for information on specific matters rather than read from beginning to end.“It’s a source that we pull up when we need to back up a point or further clarify what we are trying to say.

And this is exactly how many of us treat the Bible, simply as a reference book.

We see it as a resource in our pocket to be searched when we are trying to win an argument. As a book of inspiration to post on social media. Or as a book we consult on specific matters but have never thought about reading beginning to end. And this is a dangerous habit for us to fall into.

Why? Because we need to see the Bible not as a book to be referenced, but as a book to be lived, and then let our life be saturated by it. It should be the source of life for us. Not a source that we footnote or cite to make a point.

Honestly answer this question: how do you mainly interact with the Bible?

Do you pull a verse here and there to tweet or Instagram?

Do you Google for a verse every now and then to back you up in an argument?

Or do you daily read it to soak it up and let it transform the way you live?

I promise, this is not a gotcha type of question. I only ask this question to you, because I recently asked the same question to myself. And when I answered it, it made me realize that I had not made the Word of God a big enough of a priority in my life.

It is so easy in our “information at our fingertips” lifestyle to go about our day and simply see the Bible as a reference book that supplements our lives when it is convenient to us or we have a question to be answered. And when we do this, we are missing out on the true riches of Scripture. As Matt Chandler would, “We are adults playing around in the kiddie pool of faith.”

After being convicted of this myself, I found a few ways to get past this type of thinking:

1. Simply, read the Bible daily.

The greatest way to get out of the habit of seeing the Bible as a reference book is to make a daily habit of reading, studying, and applying it to your life. This will cause Scripture to be in your mind and vocabulary constantly rather than just as a reference. It will begin to flood your mind throughout the day, so you are thinking about it not just when you need to defend something, but in every decision that you make.

2. Before you share a verse, read the whole chapter for context.

Sadly, often when we share Bible on Instagram or Twitter, we morph Scripture to fit into our life rather than fitting our life into Scripture. Because of this, we’ll take verses out of context and post them as inspiration even if that is not what the original author intended.

One example is Jeremiah 29:11, you know, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” We love to post this one in hard times, like right after a break up or unexpected job change, but we end up using a verse as inspiration that the author was writing to show God’s judgment to His people.

3. Create a habit of memorizing Scripture

Memorizing Scripture is normally thought of as a super-spiritual habit. But it should be seen as essential for all believers. Think about this, we can memorize lyrics to a song, but we don’t have the capacity to memorize God’s Word? Yeah right. It’s just that we don’t focus on it, so we allow our minds to be filled more with culture’s influence than the Spirit’s influence. But when we memorize Scripture, we are keeping a reference book of the Bible in our mind. When we draw from it, we aren’t looking it up, but rather we are drawing it out from a past reading or devotion.

What are some ways you have made Scripture more of a priority in your life?

Chandler Vannoy is the Brand Manager for LifeWay Leadership. He is a graduate of the University of Tennessee and is now pursuing his Masters of Divinity at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He loves the NBA, C.S Lewis, and good coffee. Connect with him on Twitter: @chandlervannoy.

The 10 Commandments of Social Media

A guest post from my son, Jeremy Chandler

This is a guest post from my son, Jeremy Chandler. Currently, Jeremy serves as a Marketing Manager at Pursuant, a fundraising agency serving the nation’s leading nonprofits, faith-based ministries, and churches. He and his wife Mary live in Nashville, TN. If you’re in the area, he jumps at any opportunity to connect with people over coffee.

Social media provides churches with an incredible opportunity to reach more people and create deeper, more meaningful connections with people in the pew. But, when you combine the various ways churches can use it and challenges around what to post, many churches are still either hesitant to use social media or are using it poorly and not seeing any positive results.

So how do you use social media effectively for ministry? Based on the way churches are effectively using social media today, here are 10 “commandments” to help guide your strategy.

The 10 Commandments of Social Media

1. Be Human

We all agree that the Church is made up of people, not buildings. However, one of the temptations when using social media for ministry is to create a persona around your ministry rather than people. Instead of simply using social media as a platform to share what your church is doing, find ways to humanize your ministry.

2. Be Positive

Take a scroll through your newsfeed and count how many posts are rooted in anger, pessimism, arrogance, or other negative stances. One of the greatest opportunities your church has when it comes to social media is to be a light in a place that’s becoming increasingly dark. Every time you post something consider, “Is this adding value and positivity to the people we’re trying to reach?”

3. Be Remarkable

Creating compelling, visual images or video content is an increasingly important trend for churches. Even if you don’t have a designer on staff, there are tools like Canva, Legend, and Facebook Ad tools that make creating images and videos easy for the rest of us.

4. Be Strategic

How can you use it to reinforce your ministry vision? How can you use it to create excitement or anticipation for an upcoming project or sermon series? And maybe most importantly of all, how can you leverage the content you’re already creating (i.e. – your weekly sermon) to distill and disseminate via social media throughout the week? These are all valuable questions to help your church be more strategic in its approach to social media.

5. Be Present

Social media shouldn’t be one person’s responsibility. One of the easiest ways to increase your social influence is to equip and encourage your staff to leverage their social presence for ministry.

6. Know Your People

Don’t feel like you need to be present on every social network. Instead, ask yourself, “Who is your church trying to reach? What channels are they using? How are they using it?” Then look for ways to apply some of the other social media commandments there.

7. Encourage User Generated Content

One of the best ways to maximize social media for ministry is to create a culture where church members are creating the content. Ask questions that create conversations. Share stories from people in the pew who are doing ministry. Create a Twitter hashtag for your Twitter sermon that prompts people to share.

8. Market Your Social Presence

If you want people to engage with your ministry online, printing social media icons in your bulletin can’t be the only way you market your social presence. Instead, look for other ways to promote your social channels from the platform.

9. Reinforce Relationships & Discipleship

Effective discipleship requires more than one hour on a Sunday morning. However, continuing the conversation on social media throughout the week is an incredibly effective way to lead people to deeper conversations. This might include sharing your message notes throughout the week or hosting a Facebook Live Q&A to take questions about Sunday’s sermon.

10. Develop a Social Media Policy

Defining what’s appropriate to post and how you will handle any negative situation on the front end is critical. If you’re starting from scratch, here are a few social media policy examples to get you started.

Like everything else your church does, social media is simply another tool to help people grow closer to Jesus. It’s not a silver bullet. But, when you use these commandments to guide your strategy, you’ll be surprised at how it can help you reach more people, increase engagement in your community, and lead people deeper in their commitment to Christ.

What else would you add to the list?

When I Allow Someone to Fail and When I Come to the Rescue

It's a delicate balance in leadership

I have often commented that part of my leadership is to create a culture where failure is considered a part of the learning process. It’s okay to fail. As a leader, while it may seem unproductive to some, many times I have watched someone on my team fail. I probably could have stepped in earlier, took control of the project or delegated to someone else more experienced, and saved a failure from happening. I let the failure happen.

Recently, I said something like this at a conference and was questioned afterward. It was a valid question, which went something like this:

I am in the middle of this now and it is tough. Many times I wonder if I should just step in. I am trying to exercise patience. Is there a time you save them from failing?

Great question and that’s a delicate balance. When do you step in and rescue someone and when do you allow the person to possibly fail?

Here is my bottom line response:

The balance for me is in how much the failure will injure them (or the team) versus how much it will teach them (or us).

At times I step in to rescue

Sometimes I can save someone from unneeded heartache. I’m likely to step in an try to help if it wouldn’t teach them as much as it would simply hurt. This includes for them and for the team.

There are failures we can learn without the need to repeat them. When I was in business, I had people give me fair warning about doing business with certain individuals. I was thankful to avoid the pain of those associations. There would be others I couldn’t see coming and would learn on my own and help others avoid the pain.

Also, in business, I learned the secret of making your banker your friend – not your enemy. Unfortunately I learned it the hard way. I have given that piece of advice to dozens of young business owners over the years. That’s a “failure” which impacts the business and everyone in the business.

If the failure is going to derail the progress of everyone on the team, or the recovery is going to be greater than the teaching experience, I’m likely to rescue them.

At times I allow them to fail.

I will admit, this is the harder one, but if I would be stunting the individual’s personal growth by stepping in to rescue them, I may let them fail. Failure is one of life’s greatest educators, so most people grow through trial and error.

If, for example, someone on my team wants to try something new. I may feel it isn’t the best decision, or it isn’t the way I would choose to do it, but I usually can’t guarantee it won’t be a success. Instead of going with my gut, I may let the team member follow his or her gut and take a chance. We may discover a home run and I would happily admit my hunch was wrong. And, either way, it didn’t hurt too much overall, but the individual team member learns something far more valuable which will help them and the team in the future.

Again, the bottom line for me is to discern the greater value –

Growth of a team member by allowing failure, which ultimately helps the overall team.

Or, protecting a team member from needless injury, which could ultimately injure the overall team.

I hope this is helpful in addressing the dilemma. Keep in mind, there are no clear cut lines on leadership issues like this. Every situation is unique. We keep learning and developing in these areas.

Wow, leadership is hard, isn’t it?

How do you decide when to allow someone fail and when to save them the agony?

Leading with Control Versus Leading with Influence

Let me be honest. I can be a controlling person. It’s part of my character. I know that. I test that way with StrengthsFinders. If no one is taking charge, I’ll take over the room. (And, not because I’m extroverted. I’m not.) If we both come to a four-way stop at the same time – as nice as I try to be and as much as I love others – I won’t stall long for you to decide if you’re going. It’s just how I’m wired. If the leader isn’t in the room, I’ll lead. 

I think my team, however – or at least I hope – would tell you I don’t perform as a controlling leader. Some may even wish I controlled more. It’s been a long process to discipline myself not to respond how I am naturally inclined to do.

Leaders, if you want to to have a healthy team environment, you must learn to control less and influence more. The differences are measured in the results of creating a healthy team.

I have learned thought that successful leaders understands the difference in leading with influence and leading with control.

Here’s what I mean by the results of controlling versus influence:

In an organization where control is dominant:

  • The leader’s ideas win over the team’s ideas – every time.
  • The team follows, but only out of necessity (for a paycheck) – not willingly.
  • Change happens through fear and intimidation – not motivation.
  • People are managed closely – rather than led.
  • Team members feel unappreciated and often under-utilized – rather than empowered.
  • The organization is limited to the skills and ability of the controlling leader – not the strength of a team.
  • Passion is weak – burnout is common.

But,

In an organization where influence is dominant:

  • The ultimate goal is what’s best for the organization, not an individual.
  • Team spirit develops as relationships and trust grow.
  • Willing followers, and other leaders, are attracted to the team. 
  • Leadership recruitment and development is a continued endeavor.
  • Change is promoted through desire and motivation, not obligation.
  • The organization has the expanded resources of a team of unique individuals.
  • People feel empowered and appreciated.

Leaders, take your pick – control or influence. You can’t have it both ways. One will always be more dominant. Granted, I could write a whole blog post (and, I have) on the messiness of leading by influence. There will often be confusion, lack of clarity, and misunderstandings. It comes when all the rules aren’t clearly defined. This, however, is a tension to be managed not a problem to be solved. (I think Andy Stanley said that first.) 

When it comes to creating organizational health – influence will always trump control. Every time. 

Have you ever been or worked for a controlling leader?

Have you been in an environment where influence is dominant?

Which did you prefer?

The More Important Question: The One Behind the Question

You’re familiar with the common scenario where someone half-jokingly asks for advise for a “friend”. Everyone knows the “friend” is actually the person asking the question.

Well, that scenario happens in leadership also. All the time.

I call it:

The question behind the question.

The question behind the question may be the more important question. 

Sometimes it’s just a simple question and nothing is hidden in it. But, sometimes, whether because of fear, insecurity or intimidation, people are hesitant to share what’s really on their mind. They ask questions or make statements which are really innuendos of a bigger issue.

Let me give you a simple example. Someone on your team asks, “Are we going to evaluate the Easter services?” That’s a fair question. And, you could simply say “yes” or a “no” and the question is answered. But, there’s likely a bigger question behind that question – or some statement, some input or feedback, maybe even a critique, which prompted the person to ask the original question. And, that’s what you really want or need to know. 

It’s may or may not be the fault of the leader which causes the “real” question not to be asked, but good leaders look beyond what’s being verbalized. They attempt to discern the motive and intent of the question or statement someone makes. They ask follow up questions to make sure they understand the concern or input being given.

When someone is asking the leader a question (or makes a statement to the leader), the leader needs to consider if the question is the real question or if a disguised bigger question exists. They need to ultimately get to the unspoken questions and statements.

In fact, the health of the organization may depend on uncovering what’s really not being communicated.

Next time someone asks you a question – or makes a statement – consider whether there is a question beyond the question.

It could make all the difference.