Leaders urged to ask better questions

2013-09-30T15:47:00Z 2013-10-01T00:45:04Z Leaders urged to ask better questionsSUSAN EMERY Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
September 30, 2013 3:47 pm  • 

VALPARAISO | Good leadership is all about asking better questions, an expert in the field said Monday.

Amy K. Hutchens, a San Diego-based business strategist who specializes in executive development, sales team training and leadership, spoke to Valparaiso Rotary Club members at Strongbow Inn.

In a program titled “Ignite Brilliance in Your Leadership,” Hutchens shared tips for creating engagement, commitment and teamwork within organizations.

It begins by following two fundamental principles, she said.

“Leadership happens one conversation at a time, and leaders are responsible for the quality of that conversation,” Hutchens said. “Your No. 1 job is to set your people up for success.”

As founder of the consulting firm AmyK Inc., Hutchens travels the world to help companies and individuals grow profitably. At a Denver event, she met Valparaiso Rotary President Ron Bush, who invited her to speak to his club.

A former elementary school teacher, Hutchens has a master’s of science degree in education with an emphasis in brain research from Johns Hopkins University. When it comes to the brain, everyone shares a commonality at the neurological level, she said.

“Your brain is hardwired to be triggered by a question,” Hutchens said.

Yet, 92 percent of questions leaders ask are considered “low-level recall,” meaning they don't require deep thought or engagement, she said.

For example, instead of asking employees to list their goals, ask them to explain how they will achieve those goals, Hutchens said.

Organizations also should use technology to make staff meetings more efficient, productive and profitable. Instead of having employees provide updates of what their departments are doing, they should share that information online prior to the meetings.

At the meetings, they then can discuss how departments impact each other and how they can work together better to enhance synergies.

Hutchens also said she dislikes employee handbooks because they are usually written by only a few people and seldom read by employees.

She advocates instead for a “culture handbook,” which includes contributions from all employees and is “created by the people for the people.”

She urged leaders to avoid falling into habits, patterns and routines that will keep them in a rut. It's also important to avoid becoming complacent, and leaders always should be asking the question, “what am I missing?” Hutchens said.

“Change your thinking, change your behavior, and you change the result,” she said.

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