Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Leader Speak -- Advocacy vs Inquiry

In my previous blog I talked about replacing statements that start with “I think...” with questions that start with “How do we...”.  In his new book “Advantage” Patrick Lencioni refers to Chris Argyris, a Harvard Professor, who distinguishes between Advocacy and Inquiry as the two critical ways that members of effective teams must communicate.
Advocacy is about stating your case, and usually begins with “I think...”.  Inquiry happens when people ask question to seek clarity.  Unfortunately the examples in the book around Inquiry are examples of poorly constructed question.  The first example is “Why do you think the advertising approach is wrong?”  If your read my previous blog, you will immediately see what is wrong with this question.  It asks a question that begs for an answer that continues the Advocacy  “I think we should change our advertising because it is too juvenile for our target market.”   The better inquiry question is “How do we determine if our advertising approach is right or wrong?”  
Another example given is “What evidence do you have that our expenses are too high? And how certain are you of this?”  The first question is ok, although I would have replaced the “you” (which can be seen as a bit accusatory) with “we” to distance ourselves from Advocacy.  The second question, “And how certain are you of this” is problematic.  We don’t care how certain someone is of an opinion.  We need the facts, and the only relevant question is “What are the facts?”

If your competition is making its business decisions around opinion and conjecture, and in your business you are challenging opinions and conjecture, then you have a competitive advantage.
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