A Fearless Culture is the result of a cumulative focus of leaders across the organisation, led and modelled by those at the top. Drawing on questioning methods and a coaching approach, leaders who ask, build Fearless Cultures.
Ask more questions and tell less
“Insight” involved when you ask questions which lead people to a new understanding. Insight is that light bulb moment when the brain re-assembles unrelated ideas together and connects them in new ways. Insights are valuable; they engage the reward system of the brain and trigger a dopamine release: a neurotransmitter known as a ‘happy chemical’. The simple act of seeking and finding our own answers is rewarding to the brain. Insight also activates the hippocampus: the brain area that is accountable for long-term memories. Our memory is enhanced by insight — we build rich neural connections to things we already know, and then the solution can be applied more widely in the future.
If a leader wants people to follow them on their journey, a leader should be clear about their goals. In a Fearless Culture, leaders understand the wide vision. They are clear on individual, team and organisational purpose. A leader who asks has a clear objective for each conversation and promotes debate in that direction. Having aim provides shape and leads to an outcome, whether it’s a casual lift chat, a semi-formal fortnightly catch-up with a direct report, or a team meeting. Finding your purpose is finding out how to serve your gifts, not just adopting the value systems of someone else. Personal development programs, spiritual teaching or management guru theory are the guides and the techniques but not the goals. Be careful not to just adopt the other people’s views of your purpose. A coaching approach isn’t for the faint-hearted—the leader who asks needs courage.
Considering your own things, putting it aside and focusing on another person requires courage. It takes courage not to have the answers and to ask the questions. It requires courage to ask instead of telling and abdicating from the role of ‘leader’ with all the answer. Aristotle called the first virtue of courage because it makes all the other virtues possible. It is the most important business virtue as well as being the most important human virtue. Courage is not an intellectual quality, nor in the classroom that can be learned. It can be acquired only through multiple experiences of risk-taking. Courage is coming from the heart.
Leaders of governance have the dual function of guiding and building a Fearless Culture in their own teams as well as influencing the organisation. Culture is the sum of everything we do, every day, and the leader who asks creates momentum for culture and changing momentum by telling less and asking more, being clear on purpose, and showing courage.