Guest opinion: Don’t stop asking questions, even when people are looking to you for answers
By Wendy Current | Vice president, training and development officer at Ames National Corp.
When I submitted my proposal for this article several months ago, I planned to write about the importance of seeking “diversity of thought” as it relates to leadership and decision-making. Specifically, I believe decisions made based on a variety of perspectives are sounder in judgment and generally receive increased support in the long term.
Then the coronavirus became very real, very quickly. And I still believe the same principle is true.
It is true that in times of an immediate crisis, people often look to leaders for guidance. In the early stages of upheaval, there is benefit to having one person or team responsible for providing quick and definitive direction. Clear instruction can provide structure, reduce anxiety and may even save lives depending on the circumstances.
However, if the uncertainty continues over an extended period of time (as is the case in which we find ourselves with the global pandemic), it is important for leaders not to resort exclusively to the tradition of using top-down decision-making. While the initial onset of a crisis may require immediate decision-making, the ongoing mitigation of an issue is best managed by ensuring we continually seek information (and engagement) from a variety of sources.
As a leader, you may be the main communicator of advice and counsel throughout these times. Whether you are the president of your company or the local team leader of a group of company employees, make sure you are asking your employees these questions and incorporating diversity of thought into your decision-making:
- What is top of mind for you right now?
- What do our customers need from us right now?
- How can we move beyond our organization and help our community?
Whether you seek these questions through online surveys or one-on-one dialogue (keeping social distancing guidelines in mind), you can use the information you gathered to ensure all future decisions and communications are informed, wise and focused on what is important – your employees, your customers and your community.
Do not confuse asking questions with demonstrating weakness. As John Maxwell, the leadership guru says, “Good leaders ask great questions.” We are in unprecedented territory. Asking questions and listening as we go through these extraordinary times will ensure we make wise decisions.
There may come a time when you and you alone have to make the final decision. Even then, you can do it with the knowledge that you have sought out various perspectives, ensuring the conclusion is both inclusive and well informed.
Wendy Current is director of training and development of Ames National Corp., a bank holding company that owns five banks throughout Iowa. Wendy focuses on growing organizations through employee and customer engagement initiatives, with a special passion for growing leaders to serve both within organizations and throughout the community. Connect with her via email.