Are You Asking the Right Questions?

What do you think is wrong with many of the entrepreneurs? One of the great errors in thinking committed by these business leaders is this: The omniscience fallacy: Believing One Knows Everything.

Maybe you have worked for a boss who thinks he knows everything? Or you know someone who does, because this is rampant. It’s common practice for bosses to interrupt someone to tell them why their idea won’t work, or how they could make their idea better.

In Marshall Goldsmith’s book What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, he lists 20 habits that are the top interpersonal challenges for leaders. One of the most common faults leaders have is in thinking they know it all. And, they have an overwhelming desire to let you know how smart they are.

When I review Goldsmith’s list of 20 bad habits, I find six of the 20 that stem from the fact that leaders think they know it all. In my Executive Coaching business, I coach some pretty smart executives, not many come to me because they think they don’t know enough. They are all pretty accomplished and knowledgeable. But that’s the problem.

Once in positions of responsibility and power, everyone comes to them with questions and to ask for advice. The idea that they are all-knowing gets reinforced, and many executives start believing they actually do know what’s best. In a desire to keep up appearances, they stop asking questions.

Take for example, the question of motivating employees. Almost every economic model has assumed that money is the key motivator for employees. Bosses assume that if they pay their people top dollar, they’ll get top performance and loyalty in return. That is not true at all, but this way of thinking is rampant…

Even though management studies say this isn’t the way it works, most leaders continue to think of pay as the ultimate incentive. They think they know their employees and what they want. Here’s a passage from Goldsmith’s book that struck me as important:

As a general rule, people in their 20s want to learn on the job. In their 30s they want to advance. And in their 40s they want to rule. No matter what their age, though, understanding their desires is like trying to pin down mercury. You have to find out what they want at every step – by literally asking them – and you can’t assume that one size fits all. The person who sees the noble goal of “work-life balance” as irrelevant at age 24 may find it critical at age 34. (Goldsmith, p. 214)

Bosses think they know their people, but how can they know if they aren’t asking questions and having conversations? And it’s hard to have a two-way exchange of ideas when you are the person in charge and you come across as if you know it all already.

What’s been your experience with “smart” leaders?

Dr Surya M Ganduri, PhD. PMP. is the Founder & President of eMBC, Inc., an international firm specializing in strategic and executive leadership development processes that Help People Succeed in an Evolving World. Dr Surya has over 28 years of business experience in management consulting, leadership development, executive coaching, process improvements, organizational development and youth leadership. For more information visit or contact eMBC, Inc., directly at (630) 445-1321.

About Dr. Surya

Using Quantum Physics and business research, Dr. Surya explores the correlation between the science of consciousness and patterns in the business world, to suggest innovative ways of using this wisdom to lead and succeed in a business environment that is constantly evolving at a rapid pace. Self-awareness is the awareness of the self as separate from the thoughts that are occurring at any point in time. Without self-awareness the self perceives and believes the thoughts that are occurring to be who the self is. Self-awareness gives one the option or choice to choose thoughts being thought rather than simply thinking the thoughts that are stimulated from the accumulative events leading up to the circumstances of the moment. Along with his work as an Author, Writer, Blogger and popular Internet Radio Talk Show Host, Dr. Surya is in-demand as a public speaker. Clients include small to large corporations and individuals.
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