Key Management Insights - Asking The Right Questions
When we work with our people, we spend time talking with them and listening. Creating the arena for where we work to be productive, is helped by the questions we ask and the information we gain.
When we know the answers we want or expect, we have a tendency to position our questions in such a way that we hear what we want to hear.
For ourselves, we can choose to make a challenge that moves us forward - however uncomfortable that might be - or retain within the comfort zone of accepting what is.
This evades our responsibility to ask ourselves the questions that provide the most value for us, because they are often the ones we need to work on, rather than the ones that are easiest to ask.
In our teams and the individuals we work with we have a similar dilemma to consider - are we prepared to ask the questions that really get to the nub of an issue and shake some people up a bit - or are we happy with second best forever.
"It is much harder to ask the right question, than it is to find the right answer to the wrong question." E E Morison, MIT
Getting the answers we want to hear, raises important questions about ourselves and the issues we have within us, because finding out why we either cannot create or aren't prepared to ask questions that are valuable challenges, is important to know, so that we can develop and grow.
And the questions need not be complicated. After all, we are merely seeking information for ourselves or those to whom the questions are directed.
The good, deep, challenging information is valuable to us, as we seek insights into the issue at hand; it is useful to others as we trigger their thinking so they can process the information that comes out.
When we ask questions that are not valuable, we waste time and energy in the effort that we make, creating added frustration on both sides of the relationship.
The right questions are often simple and short, leaving the space for the individual to fill as they explore their responses whilst you listen.
The very best questions ask for information, by starting with words like 'What...' , 'How...', 'When...', 'Where...', 'Why...' and 'Who...', require a response that tells you something.
In fact although the information has great value in itself, by turning on their tap and encouraging them to talk, new ideas flow; confidence builds; processing and synthesis helps thinking on the fly.
It's in these moments where the value of the right question in the right place will add the most value, for both you as a manager and the employee as well.