Leading with questions

As leaders we have all the answers right?


We don’t. And we know we can’t possibly know everything. That’s why we’re always learning by asking questions, reading, tinkering, observing and listening.

But also influencing others by the questions we ask.

Here’s a short story:

I have a client who I particularly like a lot. He’s the owner of Restaurante Marenca. A very passionate guy. He’s of the ‘I have to delight my customers no matter what’ mindset (remember yesterday’s post?). It’s liberating and exciting to be able to speak in the same terms with someone who is as passionate as you. It’s as if you’re reading each others minds and finishing each others sentences.

Anyway, we met him two weeks ago, and at that meeting I lay down a few questions for him:

  • If Marenca dissapeared tomorrow, who would care?
  • What’s the evolution of Marenca? Is that all there is to it?

Nice  and easy right?

Well we met again last Thursday. And boy was I surprised and humbled. My client said that he had thought about what I had asked him. He even talked to his wife about it and felt he really didn’t have an answer to either question. But that he wanted to. He also said he wanted to thanks us for being objective and forward thinking with him because it helped him reflect and evaluate some decisions he has to make.

Cool! I was very happy to hear that because we made a small difference in his thinking.

Lots of businesses never ask themselves these types of questions. But they are precisely the type of questions we need to ask ourselves constantly. We must remember that questions wake people up. They prompt new ideas. They show people new places, new ways of doing things.

As leaders we don’t have all the answers. Accept it. What we do have, in abundance, is curiosity. Use it.

P.S. If you ever come to Tijuana, tell your taxi driver to take you to Marenca. Have the Mayan Chicken. You won’t regret it 🙂

  • Kevin McFarthing

    Spot on, Jorge.  It’s the difference between leadership and management.  Managers ask questions like “what do the latest sales numbers tell us?” and “how will I meet my cost target for the year?”.  There’s nothing wrong with this, it’s essential.  If it’s all you ask, you’re in trouble.  Leaders ask questions like yours in the article, like “what’s our company REALLY about?”, like “what would our customers do if we weren’t here?” and “where is our next million/ten million/billion coming from?”.  Companies need both types of questions.

    • Hi Kevin (@innovationfixer),

      Thanks. Nothing wrong with asking the practical questions but there’s much more to it than just that.

      I also like this question by Mike Myatt: Who Will Be Crying At Your Funeral? – onforb.es/AAdNbg

      Will add it to my repertoire 😉