I have found that in business and in life, you are either growing or regressing. Change is constant and time doesn’t allow for long pauses. Because of this, it is imperative that leaders remain vigilant, continually assessing if their organization is being positioned to grow or regress. Leaders must be willing to question conventional wisdom, the fundamental practices of their company, and the validity of their own assumptions through feedback loops.
Contrary to traditional thinking, growth is not a goal; it is a byproduct of having a culture of inquiry and innovation. In fact, a Harvard study of over two hundred companies shows that strong culture increases net income 765% over ten years. Growth cultures can be spotted by their frequency and use of questions and feedback loops with their people.
People don’t need to be managed; they need to be unleashed. Leaders coach individuals and teams to greatness by providing them with inspiration, motivation, recognition, and feedback – not answers. A great quote by John Maxwell shares, “The greatest enemy of learning is knowing”. Questions are the primary way a person learns.
In working with leaders, I have found that when they are on autopilot, they accept without questioning and they train their teams not to question. In unhealthy cultures, people who ask questions are often seen as uniformed, disruptive, or insubordinate. But what if we ask questions that shine a light on what is possible and what could change?
Leader must be willing to be vulnerable enough to ask and be asked questions. That is how they become a catalyst of change and innovation. Leaders must create a culture of psychological safety for their teams to ask questions and provide feedback free from being shut down, blamed, or humiliated.
Teams don’t learn from their experiences; they learn from reflecting on their experiences. That logic applies to both failures and successes. Successful teams perform retrospectives or after-action reviews where they ask the right questions to discover opportunities to refine and innovate together.
Teams that have a healthy culture understand that they are greater than the sum of their parts. Feedback loops are a powerful tool to engage and leverage the entire team to provide and analyze data. Leaders can be transformed by what they hear if they ask the people doing the work for their feedback and listen for possibility.
Feedback loops invite divergent thinking. A great question for leaders to ask is, “how do we make this 10x better?” Innovation can come from anywhere; leaders must ensure that all voices are heard.
In healthy cultures, teams practice empathy by being open to other people’s thinking even when it is different than their own. They practice skepticism by being open to the idea that their own thinking could be wrong.
Additionally, feedback from your clients allows you to know if you are on or off course and helps you identify where you may need to adjust. Two powerful questions to ask your clients are, “How would you rate this project or experience on a scale of 1-10? What would have made it a 10?”
Leaders steer teams towards success not by staying in a straight line, but – like riding a bike or driving a car – by making minor adjustments constantly. Feedback loops serve as a mechanism for leaders to gather valuable information on what worked, what didn’t, what was learned, and how to adjust for the future. Feedback makes leaders and teams great if they welcome it and do something with it.
Leaders can get off autopilot and drive teams to achieve uncommon results by leveraging the power of questions and feedback loops.
Jamie Renee is the founder and CEO of Good Day Solutions, a consulting firm transforming why and how teams work together by aligning their strategy and their culture. The Good Day team is comprised of culture and strategy experts from a variety of sectors, including government, military, healthcare, secondary education, financial, technology, law, IP, traditional private, public, start-up, environmental and nonprofit. Good Day’s culture and strategy experts equip teams to unleash innovation, maximize opportunities, and fuel productivity by aligning their Purpose, their People, and their Processes.