Ask: A Book Review by Bob Morris

Ask: Tap Into the Wisdom of People Around You for Unexpected Breakthroughs in Leadership and Life
Jeff Wetzler
Hatchette Go/An Imprint of Hatchette Books (May 2024)

How to unlock personal growth and professional development in all areas of your life

The title of this brief commentary refers to the impact of others on an individual and it could also refer to that person’s impact on others. For example, those who had the greatest influence on President Abraham Lincoln’s decision-making include (in alpha order) Frederick Douglass, Ulysses Grant, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and George Washington. When ranking U.S. Presidents, most (if not all) historians would rank Lincoln among those who had the greatest impact. They had developed what Jeff Wetzler characterizes as a “superpower.” That is, the ability to learn vitally important information from others.”

In his Introduction to Ask, Wetzler acknowledges a fundamental, passionate belief in three concepts:

1. Everyone can gain “vitally impoirtant infortmation frfom others who are right around them.”
2. This “superpower” is [begin italics] learnable [end italics], based on specific practices.
3. Most people haven’t learned (i.e. mastered) these practices

More specifically, the practices comprise a mindset based on dos and don’ts:

o Do not make quick (bias-driven) assumptions or reach hasty conclusions that limit learning and damage current or possible relationships.
o Urge and support others’ efforts to share their  hoper, fears. concerns, etc. as well as specific  information relevant to the given situation
o Ask the right questions with the right body language and tone of voice. Identify “unlnown unknowns.” Seek high-impact answers.
o Listen to learn. Both queastions and ansxwer should hav strategic value.
o Reflect and reconnect. Circumstances can change, sometimes suddenly and unexpectedly.  Keep an eye on degree of relevance.

In this context, I am again reminded of an observation by Theodore Roosevelt:L “People won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

Mastering the ASK APPROACH™ can enable almost anyone to unlock their personal growth and professional development in all areas of their life. Those who master it can then help others to do so. Wetzler identifies the WHAT and thoroughly explains HOW. Much of the knowledge and wisdom you possess has been provided by others. And you can be among the providers of knowledge and wisdom that still others now need.

In Ask, Wetzler shares everything he has learned about how to establish and then nourish and strengthen a world that is “rich with interpersonal curiosity and understanding, a world where people ask one another questions and listen deeply to the answers.” He notes that a German poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, once urged young people to “live the questions.” Wetzler: “Ask yourself, what would it look like to [begin italics] live [end italics] this question, again and again, through all your interactions: [begin italics] What can I learn from this person? [end italics]?”

Here’s your two-part challenge:  First, think about the knowledge and wisdom you wish you had now — but don’t ; information that would be essential to accelerating your personal growth ands professional development. Then determine where you can obtain that information. Another challenge is to identify knowledge and wisdom you now possess that could be of greatest value to others. Then decide who they are and how best to approach each.

Years ago during one of my interviews of Jack Welch, he exclaimed “If only we knew what we know!” There should be no end to tapping into the hidden wisdom of people around you, or to their tapping into the wisdom that you have gained. Each should be an endless process of managing knowledge and transferring best practices.

Jeff Wetzler could have helped Welch and GE then and he could help you and your organization now. All you have to do is to embrace the ASK APPROACH™ and read this book.

“Ask and thee shall learn….”


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