Authentic Inquiry

To fully live into her promise, a development leader’s most valuable skill set is what I refer to as “authentic inquiry.”  Here is how I define the concept:

Authentic Inquiry is the gentle art of relationship-building through the process of asking well-framed questions based on your sincere interest in the other person and to which you do not already know the answers.

That’s it.  It’s that simple.  To build relationships well, you must ask thoughtful questions which are born out of a genuine interest in the other person and to which you do not already know the answers.  This is the behavior of exceptional gift officers as well as exceptional leaders.

The problem, of course, is that Authentic Inquiry as a skill set is not taught.  It’s not taught in primary or secondary school.  It’s not taught at university.  And it’s not taught in any robust way at professional development seminars for advancement folk.  The best way to learn it – at least at the present time – is to watch and learn from exceptional mentors and successful colleagues.

If you are aiming to become a better development officer, if your goal is to become a leader, or if you wish to grow into a stronger leader, there is nothing more important you can do than develop the skills of Authentic Inquiry.  The hallmark of effective development work is that it gets accomplished by mobilizing and activating others in support of a worthy mission.  When you care sincerely about others and you display that care through the asking of thoughtful, real questions, the relationships needed for success will be strengthened.


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