I have contribution syndrome, maybe you do too, it’s not all that uncommon.
David Axson, author of the The Management Mythbuster, says successful leaders ask great questions. The problem is I talk way too much; I natter away and watch the interest and engagement in my Scout’s faces turn into despair.
Contribution Syndrome: No matter what the situation, it is the compulsion to contribute; to show how smart you are at every possible opportunity. Our whole merit system is based upon getting the answer “right.” As we move into the business world, contribution syndrome infects our every pore. We must be seen to be contributing in every meeting or on every project. For some, this manifests itself in a complete inability to sit quietly and listen. It seems part of their DNA to feel that if they are not talking, then they are not working.
Armed with this knowledge I’ll more readily recognize the compulsion and resist it. Axson goes on to explain;
The best (leaders) stop talking. They sit quietly, taking in the contributions of everyone else, and limiting their own contribution to asking a few pertinent questions that lead the discussion in a constructive manner.
Great questions are not complex questions; in fact, the best seem blindingly obvious. Unfortunately, a relatively small proportion of people in leadership positions have the courage, confidence, or even the basic common sense to ask the right questions.
The most potent question anyone can ever ask is the simple three-letter inquiry, “Why?”
The key is to keep asking dumb but great questions. This demonstrates a level of humility that is essential for effective leadership. Complexity has become synonymous with sophistication. How do we get better at asking great questions: practice.