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Liz Wiseman

Tell Less, Ask More

Bob, thank you. Thank you for the invitation to be here. I asked my 18-year-old son what I should talk about because he is kind of a young man and I knew there would be young people here, and he said, “I don’t know. Talk about adult things.” But then he said, “But you know, I’m not an adult, so I don’t know any of those adult things. But talk about them.”

So, he was of no help whatsoever, but I did decide I did want to talk about one of the great learnings of my adult life, and that really is the power of inquiry, and the power of a good question and the joy of asking, and some of the relative dangers of telling. And I want to share a few observations that I think will help us in our business careers, in our personal lives, and maybe even in our spiritual well-being and progress. And because he was not at all helpful to his mother, I’m going to throw in a few incriminating retaliatory stories about my son, just for fun—maybe my fun.

So, let me start with what I have learned out in the business world. As a management researcher, I have studied why is it that some leaders seem to bring out the best in others, while other leaders seem to shut down ideas and capability in people around them. As I studied what the best leaders do—leaders I came to call “multipliers”—here are a few things I found.

I found that the best leaders aren’t know-it-alls that tell people what to do; they are challengers who ask questions and invite people to explore new possibilities. The best leaders aren’t necessarily really big personalities that take up all the space in the room; the best leaders know when it’s time to be big, but they also know when it is time to be small and create room for other people to step up and be big. And the best leaders aren’t necessarily the decision makers that make fast decisions and then tell other people what to do, or that run around trying to sell their ideas to others. The best leaders tend to be debate makers, people who frame the issues, who ask the questions, who allowed other people to weigh in, and who get remarkably high levels of buy in from the people around them.

In short, what I found is that the best leaders tell less and ask more. They are leaders like George Sneer, a general manager at Intel. His team said, “You know, George in a typical meeting, only spoke about 10% of the time.” He was the boss, but he would speak 10% of the time, mostly just to crisp up a problem statement. Then he would back away and let his team solve the problem.

Or one of my very favorite leaders is Larry Gelwix, who I think was here with you recently—the former Highland High School rugby coach who when he faced his problem—a rugby team that had a lot of skills but kind of questionable physical stamina—he could have put an exercise program together and told them what to do. He didn’t. He decided he would put the team captains in charge—teenage boys. He put them in charge of the problem, and he said, “What do you want to do about it? And do you want to do something about it?” And they stepped up, and they got the team ready. They made it through finals, won the national championship that year—as, you know, they did 19 years that they played together.

Tim Brown, the CEO of the very famously creative design team IDEO, said that “as leaders, . . . the most important role we . . . play is asking the right questions” and focusing on the right problems.[4] It doesn’t matter how creative you are as a leader, it doesn’t matter what answers you come up with, if you are focusing on the wrong problems, you are not providing the leadership that you should.

But I found that this power of inquiry is not just true for leaders; it’s also true for professionals. We tend to do our very best work when we are answering a question rather than asserting an opinion or working with a certainty of fact. It makes me think of professionals like Stephanie DiMarco, who graduated from business school, entered the college, just like you would, with a degree in business. She entered the workforce in the early 1980s, when IBM has just introduced their first personal computer to the market.

Now, at the time, the dominant computing platform for business was a deck mini-computer—these enormous, truck-size computers that had a price tag of $30,000. When it came time for Stephanie’s company—she worked for a financial trading company—when it came time for them to build an automated system, an information system to track huge, billion-dollar financial trades, they were contemplating how they were going to be able to do this on a $30,000 box. And Stephanie said, “Why not build it on one of these PCs? It has the same processing power, and it costs $5,000. And that costs $30,000.”

The industry pundits and the know-it-alls around her thought it was an absolutely ridiculous idea. But she said, “Why can’t we build it on a personal computer?” She started a company called Advent Software with this idea of building high performance information systems on low-cost hardware. I checked the market capitalization for this firm on Friday—2.33 billion dollars. A value created by someone who just had a question—why can’t we? Why don’t we?

My research has taught me that when leaders ask more often, they actually earn the right to ask more from the people around them. And they get more—more time, more talent, more intellect—from the people around them. And when we approach our work by asking questions, we tend to contribute more. We tend to contribute in bigger, more impactful ways.

I’ve also found that this dynamic is not just true in the workplace. It can also really change the nature of our personal relationships. For me, what I’ve studied and what I’ve seen the best leaders do has really changed me as a parent. It has really helped me to be a much better mom.

I have learned to lead in my home with inquiry, with asking. And it probably started when—oh, this was back about 14 years ago—when we had three small children—ages 6, 4, and 2—and the bedtime routine I could only characterize as chaos. And so, for those of you who have young children in the room or remember what it was like to have young children, or babysit, or have siblings, you know what this bedtime routine is. You say, “Kids, go to bed. Time for bed. Put that away. Leave her alone. Help your sister. Go brush your teeth. Get a book. Not that book. No, not five books; get me one book. Okay, story time. Story time is done. Say your prayers. Family prayer. Into bed. Out of my bed, back to bed. No water; you’re hydrated. Go to sleep.” And there’s no yelling in any of this, but it’s just constant telling, night after night after night.

A friend gave me what I call the Extreme Question Challenge. What would happen if I just asked questions? It was hard at first, but then the questions flowed: “Kids, what time is it? Who needs help getting your pajamas on? Who is ready for bed? Whose turn is it to pick the story? Who is going to read the story? What do we do after story time?”

And my son said, “Well, Mom, that’s when we say prayer.” You see, they knew.

And then I would say, “Okay, who is ready for bed?”

“Me! Me! Me! Me!”

And what I learned is that when I asked the questions, it invited my children to find the answers. I learned that at work and at home, in counsels and my callings, that people didn’t really need me to tell them what to do. They needed me to ask intelligent questions.

It started with what I call Extreme Question Mode—nothing but questions. Now, as a mom, I don’t operate permanently in this mode because, first of all, it doesn’t work really well with teenagers, who interpret everything as interrogation. But I ask them a lot of questions. I save the extreme questions for sort of extreme circumstances when something has gone very, very right, like when someone just won a game or earned an award, or met a cute boy, or whatever it might be. I go into questions.

And then I also save it for when something has gone really, really wrong. Like the time my husband and I went out on a date. We were going to dinner, and we left our two boys home alone together, with the 13-year-old in charge of babysitting the 8-year-old. Now, my 13-year-old is prone to wander. He is sort of drawn to adventure. So, I left very, very simple but clear instructions with him. All I said was, “Stay with your brother. Stay with your brother.”

We go to dinner, and about an hour and a half into dinner, my husband’s cellphone rings—unknown caller. He says, “I’m not going to answer that.” It rings again—unknown caller. “I’m not answering that.” It rings again—unknown caller. This time he answers it, and he hears, “Mr. Wiseman, this is Officer So-and-so of the Menlo Park Police, and we have your sons in custody. We’d like you to come and pick them up.”

That surprised us, but actually we weren’t that surprised that the 13-year-old had got himself into some trouble. That wasn’t the surprise; it was the 8-year-old. Because in our family, we have very high standards, and we really like our children to be out of Primary before getting a police record.

We picked up the boys, and we learned they had been apprehended at the local middle school and detained because the school marquee sign, the letters on the sign had been mysteriously rearranged. And so, we picked them up; we drove the few blocks to home in silence. But then when we got home, we excused the 8-year-old to go to bed, and we had a little talk with our 13-year-old.

Now, I want you to imagine the lecture, the monologue that has been percolating in my mind as we drove there and we drove them home. And I’m about to deliver this fervent monologue when I realize, you know, perhaps some questions would be better right now. And then I thought, of course questions would be better right now because right now an interrogation is totally appropriate. So you can imagine the questions that I am formulating. It’s like, “What happened?” And, “What were you thinking?”

But because I had paused a little bit, some better questions came to mind. I sat down with my son—my husband as well, but he makes me do all the dirty work on these kinds of things because he is a super-nice guy—and I just asked my son two questions. I said, “What were your good decisions?” And, “What were your bad decisions?”

And then he just walked me through it. He said, “Well, not long after you left, my friends called and wanted to play Moon Tag at the school. And I said yes. So that was probably a bad decision, huh.”

I said, “Yes, that was.”

And then he said, “But I took Josh with me because you told me to stay with Josh, so that was a good decision.”

And I said, “Yes, that was.”

Then he said, “I brought a flashlight for Josh so he wouldn’t have to play in the dark.”

I said, “That was a good decision.”

He said, “Then we got bored with Moon Tag, and we decided we would go rearrange the marquee letters, and that was . . . that was probably a bad decision.” Yeah. But then he said, “But then, when the cops came and all my friends ran,” he kind of squared up and said, “I stayed with Josh. That was a good decision.” And he said, “Mom, I had this feeling you wouldn’t want Josh running from the law.”

I said, “Yeah. That’s true. I don’t want my kid on the lam at eight.”

And then he said, “And then, when the police stopped me, I was cooperative with them.”

I said, “That was a good decision.”

He said, “Mom, I was funny, too. That was a good decision.”

I said, “Okay, that one is debatable.” But you know, there was absolutely no need for me to deliver a lecture to him. He totally got it. He understood. I just had to ask him a couple of questions. And the next time we asked him to babysit, because we did—we gave him a chance to redeem himself. And the next time we asked him to babysit, you know what? He stayed with Josh, and he took his job very, very seriously. In fact, he secured our house like a fortress. We came home to find the two boys asleep on the couch and a hunting knife on the coffee table. And then, there was a machete on the back porch inside the house, and then at the front door inside the house, an axe.

I said, “What’s with the weaponry?”

And he said, “Well, you know, in case there was an intruder, I had to defend Josh.”

The power of inquiry has really changed a lot of my personal relationships as I have learned to ask more and tell less.

But what about our spiritual lives? At the conclusion of Jesus’s grand Sermon on the Mount, in chapter 7 of Matthew, in verse 7, Jesus gives us the great promise of inquiry. You all know this scripture: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”

I want you to think about some of the great questions in ancient and modern scripture. What are some of the big “asks” that come to mind? Your favorites from scripture? For me, I think of in the Book of Mormon in the book of Ether, and the story of the Jaredites and, of course, the brother of Jared. The Jaredites had been commanded to leave their homes and travel in the wilderness, and the Lord goes with them and directs them and tells them where they should go, where they should stay, directs them to build barges, shows them exactly how to build those watertight barges, shows them how to build the holes for air.

But then when the brother of Jared asks, “Behold, O Lord, wilt thou suffer that we shall cross this great water in darkness?”[5] This time, the Lord responds not with direction but with a question. The Lord says, “What will ye that I should do that ye may have light in your vessels?”[6]

After providing such clear guidance and direction earlier, why did the Lord now ask, and how did that change things? You see, now the brother of Jared had to do more than just obey. It gave him an opportunity to exercise, perhaps, one of the great acts of faith that we read in scripture. We know what happens next. Out of molten rock, the brother of Jared fashions these 16 small, glass-like stones. He carries them up to the top of a high mountain. He makes his offering to the Lord, and then what does he do?

He makes a really, really big ask. He says, “Would you touch these stones that they might shine forth in the darkness?”[7] One of the great acts of faith. I think sometimes, when we just ask—because we know what happens. He sees the hand of the Lord revealed unto him. He sees Him with a body of flesh and bone. I think when we make asks, I think we see the hand of the Lord revealed in our life. Or you might think—I think of great asks, I think of the book of Alma, and Alma 5, and Alma the Younger’s sermon where he starts with teaching the doctrine of repentance and being born again, and he recounts the conversion of his people. And then he begins his opening salvo of questions. And you are familiar with so many of these questions.

“Have you sufficiently retained in remembrance the captivity of your fathers? . .  Have you . . . retained in remembrance [God’s] mercy and long-suffering towards them?”[8] See, now he is just warming up; we know that. This is the first two of 50 really, really insightful, thought-provoking questions. In verse 14: “Have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?”

And then in verse 26, the one that tends to linger for so many of us, he says: “If ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?” It’s one of those questions that we should keep in our back pocket, and ask ourselves when we get a little too comfortable, a little too sure of ourselves. Can we still feel that? Are we being born again on a regular basis? Having the image of God in our countenances on a daily basis? Like the sister this morning spoke about, feeling God’s love in your life?

Or you might think of the Joseph Smith History, of course, and the questions that really prompted the Restoration of the gospel. Joseph is struggling with what he has been told by all the different churches, and his own personal study in the Epistle of James, in that first chapter. He gets to that fifth verse, and it just speaks to him.

He said it grabbed a hold of his heart[9]—this scripture, and we know this scripture: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not.” And what is the promise? “And it shall be given him.”[10]

And you know what happens next. He finds a secluded place, he kneels in prayer, and he asks. And the heavens are opened. And the rest is history as we know it—Church history that the Restoration of the gospel, the reestablishment of Christ’s church, the reestablishment of prophets and modern-day prophets—all so that we can ask and then really receive.

But like all things, inquiry has its opposite, doesn’t it? Advocacy might be the opposite of inquiry, certainty, and judgment. We go back to that Sermon on the Mount again, towards the end of the Sermon, in chapter 7. And we go back to the beginning of that, in verse 1. It says, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.”[11]

Of course, Christ is talking about, don’t worry about the mote and the beam and eyes—and He’s talking about motes and beams and eyes, and essentially what He is saying to us is, “Don’t get yourself all twisted up about the poppy seed in someone else’s teeth just to go home and find out you’ve got a great big piece of spinach in your own. Or, as President Uchtdorf said, we shouldn’t judge someone just because they sin differently than we do.[12]

Now, from what I can see, nowhere is this tendency for judgment more apparent than out in social media, out on the Internet where the anonymity of the Internet makes it very easy—like, it somehow brings out the Internet troll in all of us.

It tends to bring out the Internet creature in all of us as well, and I have to admit, I have been fascinated out there reading in the LDS blogosphere—not the blogs, but you know what I have been fascinated reading? The comments. And I’m not fascinated as in, “Oh, how interesting and how enlightening.” I’m fascinated as in, like, train wreck fascinated. As in, online rubbernecking fascinated. What is happening here? And I know I should just drive by and not look, but I can’t help. I’m looking.

My husband says, “Just don’t read that. Ignore it.” And I say to him, “Well, that’s really easy for you to say. You’re really good at ignoring things. Look how you ignore me when I get all twisted up. And it’s 30 years, not 25 years—30 years that you’ve been ignoring me so effectively.” And there is wisdom in that.

Now of course, one recently that I think most of us know about is that recent performance of the Tabernacle Choir at the presidential inauguration. Like a lot of you, I wasn’t surprised that people had different opinions on this, and I wasn’t really surprised that people had strong opinions. But what I was surprised at was how quickly we judged, how quickly we condemned. As I read through these comments, so fascinated by this. I thought, “I see a lot of advocacy. I see arguments, but I don’t see a lot of inquiry.” I don’t see us making an attempt to really understand.

There was one post that caught my attention. It was on Facebook. It was a friend of mine who had a strong point of view on this, and he was posting his outrage about the other point of view. And he wrote on his post, “I just don’t get it.”

I’ve thought a lot about those words: “I just don’t get it.” See, when I find myself saying, “I just don’t get it,” it’s probably because I haven’t taken the time to understand, to empathize, to see things through someone else’s perspective.

The academics call this perspective-taking, and there’s a little test that the academics use for perspective-taking. I’m going to invite you to take this test with me. What I want you to do is I want you to draw the letter “L” on your forehead. Now, don’t do this with your pen or your pencil that I know some of you have. Put down your Sharpie markers! Because if you draw “L” on your forehead, you will look like a loser if you do this, okay? So, don’t do that. But I want you to just draw with your finger, I want you to draw on your forehead. Not on your friend’s forehead—I totally see you doing that—I’m a seminary teacher, I’ve got eyes. I want you to draw the letter “L” on your forehead. Go ahead and do that right now; make the letter “L” on your forehead.

Now, some people draw the letter this way. Other people draw the letter that way. And what is the difference? Yes, there’s no right or wrong way; it’s just your perspective. If you’ve drawn the letter this way, you’ve drawn it from the perspective of the person who is reading it, as if you’ve used a Sharpie and you drew this letter on your head.

Here is what the academics found: the way that people draw this letter tells a lot about their orientation around perspective-taking. Here’s what is interesting: it is that as we gain status, as we gain authority, and perhaps as we gain resources, wealth, comfort, our propensity for perspective-taking goes—what would you say? Up or down, as we get at the top of organizations? You would think we would have this big, broad view. Our perspective-taking tends to go down, and it’s very easy for us to move out of the mode of, perhaps, wondering. I wonder what it is like to be hungry? I wonder what it’s like for someone to not know where their next meal is coming from? To them, the next minute you are like having a Marie Antoinette moment of “Let them eat cake,” completely lacking this empathy and understanding.

My life had a way of teaching me perspective-taking at a very early age. It was sort of forced on me, in a way. My father had grown up in a very strong LDS family, and he worked in the family business, which was a mortuary. He worked for his father. Not too many years after he was working for his father, he was asked to leave the family business by his father. My dad did not leave quietly. He didn’t just leave the family business; he left the Church, he disowned his parents, and he vowed to never see his siblings again.

Now, with his own family, he kind of oscillated between two modes. One was gruff and overly directive, a bit of a know-it-all, told everyone what to do—probably the stubbornest person I’ve ever known. Or he was withdrawn, watched a lot of television. Growing up with my dad, it was very easy to be offended. He was someone you could be very easily offended by, very easily disappointed in, and very easily hurt by. Some members of his family kind of interpreted him as sort of coldhearted, maybe even mean-spirited, maybe even kind of a bit of a bad dad.

That just didn’t seem like the truth to me. I saw someone very, very different from that. I saw someone who had been offended by the imperfections of local Church leaders. I saw someone who had been disappointed by his own family. I saw someone who had been hurt so deeply that he carried that hurt with him for a lot of years. I saw him as a really tenderhearted, loving father who just didn’t know how to show it. And living with him forced me to ask a lot of questions. Like maybe just to name one: what would it be like to be fired by your father and have the job instead given to your older brother? How might that have hurt him so deeply? How might that have limited his ability to show love?

It trained me to see the gaps between intentions and actions, and that sometimes people’s best intentions don’t quite get translated right. And that, of course, in this gap, we judge other people by their actions, right? That often feel wrong to us. But how do we judge ourselves? By our intentions. No because we think we’re better than anyone else, but just because our intentions are available to us. You see a lot of disappointment and hurt.

I’m glad that I kept asking until I found a different narrative about my father. It has brought me incredible happiness. My sister calls this my “happy filter” that just sort of filters out inconvenient, unpleasant memories and just retains only the good ones. She says, “Well, you’re a little bit delusional.” I said, “You’re probably right.”

But it has brought me great happiness to maybe see beyond the veneers. I’ve been slower to judge, and a lot quicker to ask. This helps me when I am teetering, when life throws me for a loop and things freak me out. It really helps me sort of survive—sort of—politics. I’ve learned to ask questions like, “Why are so many people so angry at Barack Obama? Why would some people be really, really mad?” And I’ve spent some time really understanding that. Or in the other direction, “Why are so many people so mad at President Trump?”

It’s helped me with Church history. Why would the Lord entrust imperfect people with such great responsibility? It was probably because there were no perfect people available. Why, in Church doctrine, what would this look like from an eternal perspective? Or, in teaching seminary, I’ve learned to design lessons really on questions. At first I thought I was quite clever, designing them around my questions. And then I discovered—you know what? I’m going to design them around the students’ questions. It has changed the way I share the gospel.

I’ve done one thing differently in how I share the gospel over the last few years. I simply ask people about their faith—not asking them, “What is your faith?” And, “Do you want to know more about my faith?” Or, “Do you want to be baptized into my faith?” I just ask them to tell me about their faith, what their weekly Bible study groups are like, how they do fellowshipping. And I have become so comfortable talking about faith, not just those with it but just those out in the business world, that I feel like I get to live just a little bit of what Paul the Apostle said to the Romans, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of [Jesus] Christ.”[13] Because I have spent more time just asking.

Now, oh goodness, we’re almost out of time here. Let me share four very simple things that you can do to ask more and tell less. The first is just to ask more questions. Maybe you take this Extreme Question Challenge, and you lead something by only asking.

My buddy Matt was an MBA student at Stanford, and he spent the last two years of his MBA program solving all sorts of problems. He did well in school. He got offered a great job for a super-hot company in Silicon Valley. But then he had the biggest problem of all: how to afford to live in Silicon Valley with a little family of four. He had been thinking about this problem for a long time, trying to solve it. He scheduled some time with his wife to talk about it, and he decided to take the Extreme Question Challenge, mostly because I made him do it. Because if you know me and we are friends, I probably have already intimidated you into trying this little challenge.

He decided this was where he would only ask questions. He told me later in a conversation, “I learned more about my wife in that hour than I have in the last years that we’ve been married.” He said, “I actually know what’s important to her, and it’s not having a big house.” He really, really came to understand.

Or maybe you develop a set of back pocket questions—questions that you keep in your back pocket that you ask when things don’t quite make sense. Some of my favorite back pocket questions are simply, “What do you think?” “What does this look like from your perspective?” “What concerns do you have?” “What downsides?”

When I read stuff that doesn’t make sense to me, I sometimes ask my wondering questions, like, “I wonder why that is?” “I wonder why they feel so strongly about it?” “I wonder what they’re really trying to say to me right now?” Or, maybe the most important question: “I wonder what information I am missing? How might I be deceived by what I am reading or seeing if I don’t really step back from it?”

Number three: invite people to share their questions. In Gospel Doctrine last week, the teacher had created such a safe environment in class that one of the women there—she is a young mother, and also an attorney by trade—and she asked this question. The lesson was on the Atonement, and she said, “I’ve always wondered, can people take advantage and use the Atonement that are actually not Christians?” This wasn’t one of these sort of loaded questions. It wasn’t followed by her decided opinion. It wasn’t some question that was really a statement in the form of a question.

It was such a sincere question that other people offered their point of view—not giving decided points of view, but offering insights tentatively. Our stake patriarch, he jumped in and offered a gentle perspective. I noticed that this spirit of inquiry and understanding and truth seeking carried over into Relief Society. And at the end of Relief Society, one sister said just out loud to everyone, “Church was so awesome today! We were just talking to each other.” Maybe you invite people to share their questions.

And then lastly, maybe you look at things with another perspective. Let me share quickly an experience that I had on a vacation. This was a number of years ago; our family took a vacation to Hawaii, and we were taking a vacation with three small children—they were 7, 5, and 3 years old. And everyone knows that there is no such thing as a vacation with young children. It’s just taking work and moving it to another location, to a better venue.

So, for the whole vacation, I’m just in my normal industrious Mom mode of kind of hurry and worry, tell and tell, “Kids, put your sandals on. Get your sunscreen on. Let’s go. Load up in the car. Grab your books. We’re going to the beach. It’s going to be fun. Then we’re going to the park. Trust me.” I’m just hustling my kids around, until one morning, we wake up. My husband, he leaves the hotel room with two of our three kids—the two big ones. I don’t want you to think he was being super helpful; it was more like he was being sneaky Dad, taking the easy ones and leaving me with the 3-year-old. I knew what he was doing.

But the 3-year-old, he’s got no intention of going to breakfast. He’s still in his pajamas, and he’s bouncing between the beds. My job, Larry said, “Why don’t you get him dressed, and we’ll go down to the beach.” And he has no intention of doing any of this. As I contemplated extracting him from the hotel room, I realized I just didn’t have energy for it today. You know what, today we are on vacation. Instead of hustling this kid around, making him go where he needs to go, I was going to spend the day following him around.

It was a radical reversal of our roles. I cannot describe to you—I know we are just about out of time—but I feel like I just want to describe to you how painfully slow we moved. Zootopia,[14] the DMV sloth thing—you know the scene? Like the walking—he is meandering, stopping to pick up every little treasure and curiosity. And twenty minutes, thirty minutes have gone by, and we’re nowhere near getting to breakfast.

I’m just hoping he’s not going to stop at the koi fish pond that’s between us and breakfast. If you’ve ever spent any time with a 3-year-old, you know he’s stopping at the koi fish pond. We come to a full stop. I’ve decided I’m going to just follow, so I stop with him. I comment about “Oh, yes. Look at the pretty fish.” Then I remind him that Daddy and the girls are at breakfast, and they’re going to the beach and then maybe to the pool, and maybe we should move along and join them.

He’s having absolutely none of this. He’s got to inspect the fish, and he’s down on his knees, and he’s touching the fish. So I surrender, and I squat down and start looking at these fish with him. He’s not happy just looking at the fish now; he’s laying down on his belly, and he’s got his hands in the water, and he’s touching them, and they’re jumping up and lunging up to nibble on his fingers. And he’s shrieking with delight. Finally, in an act of surrender, I just say, “Okay, here we go.”

I’m now belly-down, and we’re blocking the path to breakfast, but we don’t really care. We’re just playing with these koi fish. And I found that when I got down and saw them on his level, they weren’t just pretty fish. I had seen koi fish bunches of times before. They were huge, and they were so different and colorful and unique—they were marvelous. As I really saw this through his perspective, the mundane became marvelous.

Maybe you can see things through another’s perspective. Sometimes we have to kneel down and kind of look at it through another’s perspective. As I was preparing some thoughts for this talk, I realized that maybe the best time to do look through this is as we kneel in prayer. And I’m realizing, maybe that’s really the purpose of prayer, for us to see things through God’s perspective. I thought maybe I should ask more often, “Heavenly Father, what is your perspective on this?”

We are completely out of time. Let me just leave you with what I have learned as a business leader and researcher, as a Mom, as a Latter-day Saint—it is that we tend to do our best thinking and we tend to bring out the best in others when we are asking, when we are inviting contribution rather than telling. When we tell less and we ask more, we discover, we learn, we come to know God. We invite others to come to know God, to feel that feeling of being reborn—born again in God’s countenance and in His presence. Because I think it is in seeking, not knowing, that we actually find light and truth. And it’s in asking that we actually receive everything that we need and everything that is important to us. And I share those words with you in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ, amen.


[1] Liz Wiseman, Greg Mckeown, Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter, HarperBusiness: (2010).

[2] Liz Wiseman, Lois Allen, and Elise Foster, The Multiplier Effect: Tapping the Genius Inside Our Schools, Corwin: (2013).

[3] Liz Wiseman, Rookie Smarts: Why Learning Beats Knowing in the New Game of Work, HarperBusiness: (2014).

[4] Adam Brown, “He Prizes Questions More Than Answers,” Business Day, The New York Times, Oct. 24, 2009.

[5] Ether 2:22.

[6] Ether 2:23.

[7] See Ether 3:4.

[8] Alma 5:6.

[9] See Joseph Smith—History 1:12.

[10] James 1:5; Joseph Smith—History 1:11.

[11] Matthew 7:1.

[12] See Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “The Merciful Obtain Mercy,” Apr. 2012 General Conference.

[13] Romans 1:16.

[14] Zootopia, Walt Disney Studios: (2016).


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