Black Belt Leadership Blog - Black Belt Leadership

Go to content

Questioning Yourself

Black Belt Leadership
Published by John Terry - The Black Belt Leader in Leadership · 19 November 2020
Tags: beablackbeltleader
Questioning Yourself
By: John Terry - The Black Belt Leader

Some of the most interesting and enlightening conversations I've ever had have taken place in my mind. Yes, I talk to myself. And before you ask the next most obvious question, Yes, I even answer myself. Some may call this crazy, but we all do it, more than we may want to admit. We have ongoing conversations with ourselves throughout the day.

Talking to yourself is one of the ways you work through what you're experiencing in life. It's how you make sense of the sheer volume of input coming at you throughout the day through your five physical senses. It's how you think through your options, weigh the pros and cons of your alternatives, and ultimately make a decision.

The problem for many leaders is they don't talk to themselves enough. Leaders, by nature, and usually decisive, quick decision-makers. While this can be a desired character trait for a leader, it can also lead to blind spots. We are all creatures of habit, and habitual thinking can creep into a leader's decision-making process, limiting their long-term success.

The questions you ask yourself allow you to think into the situation you are experiencing and not just respond based on habitual behavior. Asking questions, talking through the problem or issue, opens your mind to consider other possibilities for solving the problem, dealing with the issue, or handling the situation. It allows you to tap into your creative subconscious and consider new and innovative ways of doing things better.

Opportunities are always before us, but they only appear to the observant.

Far too many decisions are reactionary, based solely on past experience. While it may produce the desired (or expected) outcome, it may not produce the BEST outcome, as you've not taken the time to ask good questions and consider alternatives that could improve the results. It's a status-quo mindset that accepts "good enough" as good enough.

To react means to repeat a prior action. This is a habitual way of responding to life that doesn't necessarily improve our results. In martial arts, we start with reactive training (If/Then) to teach a student to defend themselves and build muscle memory. It's known as predictable response training. If an attacker punches, then do this. If they kick, then do this. If they choke you, then do this.

As a student progresses in their training, we start teaching them to become more proactive, observational, more inquisitive. We take the "If-Then" conversation to "What-If/Then". What if this happens, then what would you do? It's "out of the box" thinking to consider variables you haven't yet considered, weigh various alternatives, and consider how you would respond (or avoid) this predicament.

Thinking into the possibilities opens the mind to consider options and alternatives, allowing the student to become situationally aware and proactive engage if the situation warrants. My daughter, Jessie, and I teach this in our Self-Defense classes we've taught here and abroad. By engaging in "What-If/Then" thinking, you bypass habitual ways of thinking and acting that can literally save your life.

Leadership is no different. It's the responsibility of a leader to not only see more, but see BEFORE those they are leading do. That means a leader should be continually be scanning the horizon, weighing the options available, and asking qood questions that open the mind to see what is already there, but not yet seen.

Opportunities are always before us, but they only appear to the observant.

One of the challenges I face when training organizations is "status quo" thinking. It's that "this is the way we've always done it and it works so why change it" mentality that refuses to consider whether or not there is a better, more efficient, or more effective way of getting the task done or creating a better outcome for all concerned.

Nearly every great invention has come as a result of an innovative thought-leader thinking into a problem. As a result of asking good questions, challenging the status quo, the opportunity to bring about a different outcome reveals itself and we as a human race are made better as a result.

The opportunities are already before us, waiting to be seen, seized, and exploited for the benefit of others. But until we are willing to ask good questions, to have that important conversation with ourselves, we continue to see the opportunity as a problem that we want to continually solve using the same old, tired thinking that doesn't always improve the result.

Leaders need to remind themselves and those who are following there's usually more than one answer to a problem. And just because one answer solves the problem, it may not solve it the best way it could be solved. Great leaders solve the problem, but they continue to consider if there's a better way to solve it next time to bring about a better outcome.

So go ahead, have a conversation with yourself today. Ask yourself good questions to stretch your thinking as you go through the situations and experiences life is bringing you today. Your next breakthrough in your own personal life, or in the life of your organization, the next billion-dollar discovery, is before you right now. It is simply waiting on you to open your mind to finally see it, seize it, and exploit it for the benefit of others.

Opportunities are always before us, but they only appear to the observant.

That's why good leaders continually ask good questions.

To remain observant to what could be.



Back to content