“Content is the King...

content_v_context How well do your followers understand their kingdom?

...Context is the Kingdom."

We’ve written extensively on the importance of context in leadership ranging from effective communications to critical thinking to effective decision-making. We recently came across the title quote in an article by Dave Ulrich as yet another reminder of the importance of context over content for effective 21st Century leadership. Additionally, we’ve actively embraced artificial intelligence (AI) as an important support tool for our leadership and business coaching practice. One of the key lessons in using AI (ChatGPT in this case) most effectively is the ability to leverage the right prompts or questions to support the issue at hand.

Recently we had a conversation with ChatGPT and asked it the following question:

What are the top 3 tips to ask ChatGPT great questions?

The response back is listed below without edits:

  • Be Specific: Provide clear and specific details in your question. Instead of asking vague or broad questions, narrow down the scope to get more focused and accurate answers.
  • Provide Context: Give ChatGPT context about your question to help it understand the background and purpose. Context can be crucial for generating more accurate and tailored responses.
  • Ask Open-Ended Questions: Frame your questions in a way that encourages detailed and informative responses. Avoid yes/no questions, as they may result in brief answers. Open-ended questions encourage more in-depth exploration of the topic.

What immediately came to mind was how familiar these answers are in the many coaching sessions, workshops and even books we’ve read and written around effective communications! We know that effective communications is the biggest issue in business leadership today with the largest impact being the proliferation of unclear expectations between leaders and followers. With that in mind, let’s break down each of these suggestions in the context of being a more effective communicator as a leader:

Be Specific: Probably one of the most challenging communications challenges is leaders being specific enough in their expectations to their teams. Throughout my executive leadership career across multiple industries and organizations, my communications guideline was always based on, “The more specific the ask, the more specific the outcome”. However, it doesn’t mean that leaders must go through every detail of the ask. It does mean the intended outcome must be clearly understood so the team can operate within that intent. By way of example, we were recently working with a group of leaders who were actually saying the same thing without realizing it and the tone was taking a turn to frustration. When the discussion turned to specifics about what each was saying, the clarity brought the conversation back to a constructive outcome!

Provide Context: We live and work in an information-rich, knowledge-poor world. Leaders are constantly bombarded with content, a situation actually enabled by tools such as ChatGPT. It is therefore a crucial skill of leaders to provide contextual meaning to their expectations to enhance the understanding of their followers. One only has to look at the prevailing leadership development processes as an example of the importance of context. Merely attending training on a specific skill or set of skills is a first step in actually improving one’s leadership skills. Developing those skills in the context of the work through coaching, mentoring, assessments, etc. is the only way to ensure the skills are being leveraged for the overall success of the teams and business!

Ask Open-Ended Questions: Another one of our frequently used communications guidelines for effective leadership communications is using open-ended questions to create a discussion versus a conversation that feels more like an interrogation than a discussion. There are six ways to open with a question, Who-What-Why-Where-When-How. Any question that begins with Who, Where or When can be answered with one word or few words answers. We coach our client leaders to avoid Why questions altogether. Unless the tone of the question is spot on (and it rarely is), the conversation can get defensive. The best two ways to open a question that is most likely to generate a meaningful discussion are What and How questions. It is the reason we end every newsletter and blog with an open-ended question beginning with either of these two words!

ChatGPT is merely a tool that enhances the information flow to its user. As such, it is only as useful as the user’s ability to optimize its power. Replacing a hand saw with a power saw in the hands of a lousy carpenter only results in faster screw-ups! Leaders must master the art of effective communications before tools like ChatGPT can support effective communications and create sustainable success for their organizations!

How well do your followers understand their kingdom? If you are not sure, we can help!

Lead Well!

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Sunday, 21 April 2024