How Are You?

This is one of the most important questions a leader can ask. But far more importantly is to be able and present to generously LISTEN to the answer.

Time and time again, people tell me their bosses simply do not listen to what they have to say. This reminds me of one of Dr W. Edwards Deming’s prescriptions for improving the quality of the work which you are responsible — ask those who are doing it.

“Checking in” became an important part of our work when we, as a police agency, began to ask this question before EVERY important meeting. How are we feeling today? How might we meet each other’s needs? (You can learn more about this in my book, Arrested Development.]

Good leaders ask this question!

Krista Tippett runs a most interesting spiritually-related blog called “On Being.” She recently interviewed leadership coach Jerry Colonna about this most interesting question.

How are you?

No, really, how ARE you?

“Leadership coach Jerry Colonna says this simple, ubiquitous question can actually be an opportunity for radical inquiry. After working in venture capital, he now coaches CEOs (including, full disclosure, ours) to think through how to create workplaces that are more whole. When we ask with genuine interest “How are you?” we create an opening to connect more deeply with others — and to understand ourselves. “How are you actually feeling, in your body, right now? Are you tired? Are you scared? Are you exhausted? Are you filled with joy? Are you filled with anxiety? Is it all of the above? Is it none of the above? In my experience, we don’t even pay attention to that question ourselves,” Colonna says.

On Being guests from throughout the years have shared their own alternatives to the otherwise-throwaway questions that make up small talk. Public theologian Ruby Sales says she first began to ask people “Where does it hurt?” after seeing her hairdresser’s daughter come into the salon after a night of hustling, on drugs and in pain, with sores all over her body…

“And, as Colonna notes in this week’s On Being, it’s when we turn these questions inward, toward ourselves, that they grow into something larger. “A simple question like ‘How am I feeling right now?’ let alone the larger question ‘Who have I been all my life?’ … become essential questions to the larger question of ‘Who do I want to be? What kind of company [or police department] do I want to build? What kind of place of work do I want to live into?’”…

“How many quiet, remarkable happenings might come from a practice of checking in.”

Kristin Lin — Editor, The On Being Project