“If you do not know how to ask the right question, you discover nothing.” – W. Edwards Deming
Asking questions is important. It helps you find out what you don’t know. It can help you adjust to the culture of a workplace, develop your skills and even hire the right people who will take your organization above and beyond competitors. It can even help you get the work that you enjoy doing in certain circumstances.
Asking the right questions at the right time is a great skill that comes after a lot of practice, so don’t be afraid to try first. In an organizational setting where there is inter functional coordination required, as a manager, you need to swallow the lump in your throat and let your direct report grow by letting them ask the right questions. Let’s jump into the whys and the hows of the right questions.
The Why’s and How’s
Why Inculcate a Culture of Questioning?
The right questions enable the person asking to feel empowered that they can effectively work on their own without the need for much supervision. This is how mentoring works, the mentor asks the right questions from the mentee that helps them assess the situation and again ask certain questions to stimulate the mind of the mentee to develop a sense of direction for the solution of the problem that they are facing.
In the process, the mentee has a higher sense of confidence and competence, because they figured out the solution of problems of their own.
It is much better than just presenting the solution to a problem on a plate to a newcomer. This can be speedy on the one hand but will not invoke the ability of the new member of the organization to come up with solutions to a problem, and hinder long term growth. In the future, wherever the person goes, he will have to face the problems on his own but won’t have the previous experience of developing his thought process. This will destroy the potential of the employee to achieve greatness in the long run, reducing their productivity and creativity if they work in the same organization, making them dependent on others for help more than necessary. They won’t be able to help people in similar situations down the road.
A bad or disempowering question from a supervisor directed at the failures of a person may expose an underlying agenda of the person asking. It can even lower the morale and performance of the person doing the work because they are unable to focus on the task and keep reiterating the faults mentioned in their minds.
How Can You Create a Culture of Asking the Right Questions?
Making the culture of empowering questions common will eventually make people more creative and productive in the workplace. Consider the following ways you can make it happen:
Ask questions that build better workplace relations: For instance, “How are the reports coming along, Fred?” will not target the individual being asked or reduce their motivation and morale, like the question “Where are those reports Fred? I asked you to have them on my desk by 5! Its 5:05!”
Ask questions to gain fresh new perspective and inspiration: “Why do you think your approach worked?” after a project seemingly does well after a newcomer’s suggestion was adopted, for example the social media campaign part of a product launch.
Ask questions to set realistic expectations and evaluations: “Okay, what would happen if we went this way for developing the app?” would allow people to evaluate the pros and cons of the projects and even campaigns at hand so that they can anticipate the consequences and pros between alternatives.
Ask questions when (or to) own up to failures and successes: “What do you suggest?” when someone disagrees or is uncharacteristically quiet during developmental meetings. If they provide a feedback that will eventually make the project a success, their efforts will be appreciated at the end.
Ask questions to spark creativity: Thinking out of the box. Ask “What strategy do we adopt to make the most of the campaign?” at a team meeting so that people gain appreciation for their creativity.