Improved Leadership. Competitive Advantage.

Several years ago, we were lucky enough to work with an unparalleled leader. The type that others point to and say, “I want to be like him.” The three ELP partners studied his behavior and noticed a special and simple tool that this leader deployed to unlock tremendous performance gains and organizational learning. Actually, its simplicity might appear too good to be true. It isn’t. We saw his gift work without fail time and again—guaranteed.

When one of his followers would convey some data or information to him, he would simply ask, “How do you know?” It was beautiful and elegant in its simplicity. At its core, he was testing for the depth and range of knowledge about the situation. And he was using some of our five senses to arrive at his conclusion. People responded in a variety of ways. Mostly, leaders would respond that they were told these ‘truths’ by their ‘people’, and that’s how they knew. That response usually failed to meet the desired standard, as it wasn’t verifiable fact. Rather, it was just hearsay. The best form of knowing, and which his followers quickly learned, was to see it and maybe even feel it.

One time, he asked a Maintenance Manager if there was an extra set of fittings. The Maintenance Manager replied, ‘Yes’. Our leader-in-the-spotlight then asked, “How do you know?” Early on the Maintenance Manager replied, “That’s what corporate told me….” Or, “That’s what Rick said when I saw him in the hall.” Or “That’s what the computer said.” Two months later, the answer offered much more validity. When asked the question, the Maintenance Manager remarked that he had been to the warehouse and saw and felt the spare fittings—and that there were two more sets of spares!

This remarkable leader didn’t always ask this question because you don’t want your subordinate leaders always walking to the warehouse. Not only is it not efficient, it isn’t even feasible. So, he asked this question when it counted.

Try it out. It works. When you want a more engaged, intrusive set of followers, ask them the occasional, “How do you know?” That four word question will cause a variety of positive and exacting behaviors.

By the way, “How do you know that ELP can make an immediate difference in your organization?” Call Robin Bichy today at 703.999.5676.