'The Question is The Answer

The Question is The Answer

March 4, 2024


Being a leader isn’t always easy. The pressure of knowing what to do and how to do it can be overwhelming.

The good news is that you don’t have to have all the answers. In fact, it’s better that you don’t.

Here’s why.

When you come to a conversation with a question rather than an answer, you open the door to new possibilities. Asking questions also invites your team to take ownership of the solution.

I’ve discovered that the better I get at asking questions, the more successful my team and my business become. As leadership guru John Maxwell says, “Good questions inform – great questions transform.”

Here are some tips for asking great questions:

  • Keep questions open-ended – Open-ended questions are more empowering and expansive than questions that call for “yes” or “no” answers. Open-ended questions invite the team to think more deeply and engage more fully.
  • Encourage exploration – Ask follow-up questions using phrases such as “and then what?” or “say more about that.”
  • Be genuinely curious – Don’t just go through the motions in asking questions. Listen with an open mind and a desire to expand your own learning.
  • Avoid editorial responses –The idea of asking empowering questions is to get the maximum input from the greatest number of people. If you feel the need to grade every response before moving on to the next, you’ll shut down the conversation too quickly.
  • Ask one question at a time – Rapid-fire, machine gun style questions lead to confusing responses. Team members need to know what you’re really asking to provide the best input they can.
  • Don’t telegraph your opinion –Team members naturally want to please the leader…and the other team members. If you over-explain the question or offer too much information, it will become clear that what you’re really asking for is agreement, rather than input.
  • Keep asking –Be willing to keep the conversation going until everyone has had a chance to weigh in. Don’t let the need for a quick answer get in the way of getting a great answer.

When you have finished a meeting, brainstorming session, or conversation, express appreciation for the answers and input you have received. Be clear about how responses will be used in shaping final decisions. Give credit where credit is due. When a team member’s idea leads to big improvements or successful innovation, recognize the originator of the idea. People will be more likely to actively participate the next time questions are asked if they have seen their ideas put into action.

You’ll be a more successful leader when you give up the pressure to have all the answers. Instead, become skilled at asking great questions. You’ll open the door to transformation for yourself and your business.


Chris Ann Williams, CEO

'Managing High Maintenance Team Members

Managing High Maintenance Team Members

February 28, 2024


You know who they are.

You dread reading their emails or getting stuck with them in the break room after everyone else has left. They are the ones who take up more than their share of time and attention. The ones who are always in crisis or at the center of a disagreement. Those who require constant reassurance. The ones who consistently ask for an extension to the deadline or an exception to the rule.

They are the high maintenance employees. The 20% of your team that takes up 80% of your time.

They are often also high-performance employees. The ones who have invaluable skills, a wealth of institutional knowledge, a list of important contacts on speed dial, and great work products. You don’t want to let them go. You just want them to turn down the volume a little.

As a manager, it’s your job to make sure that the ratio of required attention to positive performance is close to 50-50, with only occasional moments when things fall out of balance.

High maintenance behaviors are most often the result of an employee’s unmet needs, either personal or professional. When you can identify the reason behind the high maintenance requirement, you can use the right strategy for dealing with the behavior.

Generally, an employee who is high maintenance is lacking one of these four things:

Competence – When an employee lacks competence, it shows up in poor performance or no performance. It may be that they need additional training or mentoring. Additional information or practice might be useful to help the employee to master a particular skill. Perhaps there is another job that suits their skills better.

The primary strategy to address competence issues is support.

Confidence – An employee with low confidence may be looking for encouragement or validation that they are performing as expected. Providing recognition and giving them an opportunity to shine in areas where they perform well may reduce their need to seek attention at other times or in inappropriate ways.

The most effective strategy for building confidence is recognition and validation.

Clarity – You may have an employee who constantly bombards you with questions, slows down group discussions, or does things in bits and pieces, requiring a nudge at every stage. This person may need clarification about expectations, timeframes, or internal workflow. Providing information in writing can reduce repetitive questions and delays in completing assigned tasks.

For issues with clarity, communication is the strategy most likely to address the issue.

Comfort – When an employee is uncomfortable, it can show up in a variety of ways. They may withdraw or remain silent, even when their participation is desired. This may be because they are a poor fit for your organization or for their team. For some, it may be that they feel unsafe or have not yet developed a sense of trust with co-workers or supervisors.  It may also be that they are struggling with outside issues that are affecting their work behavior. It’s important to recognize when problems can and should be solved in the workplace and when they need to be solved outside of the workplace.

The best strategy for addressing comfort issues is connection. Work to build good relationships at both the peer and supervisory levels. Demonstrate compassion for the discomfort and engage the employee in suggesting solutions. If the issue requires outside assistance, connect the employee with appropriate external resources.

Every employee will need a bit of extra attention from time to time. Managers find themselves juggling these needs along with the needs of the organization. When you observe and address the underlying need behind high maintenance behavior, you reduce the amount of time and effort it takes to extinguish the behavior and eliminate its negative impact on your team and their performance.

Sadly, sometimes an employee’s needs put too great a demand on your time and energy or on other employees. If you’ve tried too many strategies without any results, it may be time to use the final strategy – the exit strategy. Use this strategy only as a last resort when the threat to team or organizational stability is too great.

Keep things in balance by turning high maintenance employees into highly satisfied employees.

That way, everyone wins.

'In Grateful Memory

In Grateful Memory

February 21, 2024


We have sad news to share with you today.

Yesterday, our beloved Director of Operations, Kathy Henry, left her earthly body behind and entered the arms of the Universe. The sadness of that is almost impossible to take in, so in this message, we are focusing instead on our gratitude for Kathy’s presence in our lives, her friendship, her many gifts and talents that served Wide Awake Business and you, our clients, so well.

We are most grateful for the power of Kathy’s example, both personal and professional.
Her voice was the voice of calm, reason, care, and compassion. She believed in saying what needs to be said, even when it’s not easy. She showed us that example again when she told us a few days ago that the end was near.

And here’s what we know:

“Nothing you love is lost. Not really. Things, people – they always go away, sooner or later. You can’t hold them, any more than you can hold moonlight. But if they’ve touched you, if they are inside you, then they are still yours. The only things you ever really have are the ones you hold inside your heart.”   Bruce Coville

Please join us in sending love and prayers to Kathy’s wife Karen and their sons, Ben and James.

Thank you, Kathy. You are forever in our hearts.


Your Wide Awake Business Family