Picture these scenarios.
A professor lands his day’s lesson, a marketing professional finishes his presentation of a media plan, and a CEO sums up his monthly OpCom meeting, and all three of them end with these two words: “Any questions?”
Most of the time, in all three scenarios, there would be nothing but silence, and the opportunity to ask some very important questions would be missed.
Everyone knows that asking questions is integral in achieving clarity and understanding, but it’s not exactly second nature to most. Sometimes, we fear asking questions because we don’t want to be perceived as ignorant or divisive. Shame or pride hinders us from “mining out the gold” which can only be achieved through asking questions.
Allow me to zero in on asking questions to those you lead, to your leaders, and to your peers.
Michael Hyatt, former CEO of Thomas Nelson publishing, narrates in one of his blog entries that when he started to ascend the corporate ladder, he discovered that the key to success had begun to shift from the boss having all the right answers to the boss having the right questions.
A leader who cares to ask cares to know what’s best from his followers. In coaching, this is best exemplified. Coaches are trained to ask and actively listen 80% of the time and only 20% of the time give their recommendations.
As a leader, asking questions shows your care and your wisdom. This will build trust in those you lead.
For those being led:
I mentioned in my last blog about Mentors and Coaches that you need to be prepared with a set of questions. But here’s a good question that John Maxwell recommends you ask in these sessions: “What has failure taught you?” You don’t need to know the specifics of your leaders’ failure, but only what he or she has learned from it.
For those working with peers:
Asking questions for clarity and understanding is where collaboration happens. And as you constantly collaborate, you develop better teamwork. So don’t be ashamed to ask about best practices or clarifying questions regarding processes, etc.
We can learn a thing or two from Jesus Himself:
Jesus and His disciples showed this dynamic. Jesus’ first words in the book of John was in a form of a caring question: Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?”… (John 1:38)
Jesus wanted to address a need. He didn’t preach to them then. Instead, he asked a question.
… And they said to him, “Rabbi (which means Teacher), where are you staying? “He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day. (John 1:38-39)
And the disciples, because they asked a question, got more than an answer. They got an invitation to learn more from Jesus and build a relationship with Him.
There’s no denying that there’s more to gain (and nothing to lose) from asking questions, whether from your subordinates, your leader, or your peers. So the next time you are presented with the opportunity, ask your questions, flex that muscle of inquiring, and you will find that this practice will bear so many positive fruits for you and your career.
- What areas in your life need clarity and understanding?
- Who are the right people to go to for those questions?