Belfast Telegraph

'Companies from across the sectors are looking for staff with answers'

By Kevin Donaghy

The Brexit vote, and ensuing uncertainty, has forced many businesses to re-examine their investment plans.

This really hit home with me when I attended a recent board meeting. The team decided it was time to curb spending so plans to purchase new robotics technology were shelved.

But not every decision is so clear cut or involves such high stakes. The choices we make routinely and everyday are just as important and can measurably effect positive change in a business.

Our experience with clients across a range of sectors shows one interesting and striking similarity: businesses are looking for employees who have answers. It's perilous not to build this internal capability to fix, respond and to handle crises.

However, our experience also suggests that whilst good managers are problem solvers, exceptional managers ask great questions.

Does your business have a culture of acceptance and conformity, or a culture of inquiry and improvement?

Here's how you'll know: are questions asked by your people perceived as a challenge of authority or a challenge of the status quo? Do your people continually ask questions - are they encouraged to do so and is it 'safe' to do so?

People typically progress in the workplace because of their ability to provide answers and solutions. Today, we also need to develop individuals and teams to continually challenge why we are doing what we do, and the way in which we do it.

The most powerful questions are often the simple ones. But simple questions don't always mean easy answers.

There are three distinct reasons for creating a culture of questioning:

- it promotes intellectual growth and collective intelligence within your business;

- it increases personal confidence and improves teamwork;

- it makes good business sense and, in time, will improve business performance.

And there are three distinct ways to make it happen:

- lead with a question: demonstrate leadership by getting genuinely curious about why things happen the way they do;

- reward (or at the very least don't punish): acknowledge the usefulness of the question, even when the answer is not immediately apparent. Encourage a culture that challenges the status quo;

- embed a culture of collaboration: organisations thrive where a culture of collaboration exists.

In each and every organisation where CCO (Int) works, we embed a culture based on 'the six agreements of collaboration'.

Where these 'agreements' exist, individuals and teams at all levels within the organisation will have the confidence to speak openly and without unnecessary concern.

With these 'agreements' in place, people listen (they don't just hear) and they acknowledge excellent work.

Importantly, people can effectively manage their emotional states by minimising anxiety, fear and apprehension.

  • Dr Kevin Donaghy, managing director of CCO (Int) Ltd, is a business coach with more than 20 years' experience

Belfast Telegraph