At what point do we STOP asking questions do you think? And WHY do we stop asking questions?
When: I’m picking that we stop asking questions around the teen years; mostly because we don’t want to draw attention to ourselves in the classroom – we want to look cool and sophisticated. Asking a question might draw the wrong kind of attention to us....our classmates might think we are sucking up to the teacher or perhaps that we are just plain ‘dumb’.
Why: In the workplace we are not encouraged to ask questions because our questions may make our boss or our co-workers look dumb. I’m sure you’ve been there – you are new into a job and you ask someone ‘why do you do it that way?’ and you will get the usual response – ‘we’ve always done it that way.’ And even if you are really courageous and dare to suggest that you could show that person a better way to do whatever it is they are doing – then you will get the ‘look’. The look that says – who are you and what do YOU know about anything. You’ve only been here 5 minutes.
And so rather than risk getting offside with our new co-workers, we stop asking and do it the way they’ve always done it, even though you really could have shown them a quicker way, or a cheaper way to do whatever it is.
And pretty soon we all stop asking questions at all. Which is a total tragedy because it’s only by asking questions that we work out what’s working and what isn’t. Ways that we can improve; speed up; simplify or even eliminate altogether.
The 5 questions every organisation should encourage are:
- Why – as in why do we do it this way and is there a better way?
- Who do we know that does this and has found a better way?
- When did we start doing it this way, and does the reason we started doing it this way still stand?
- Where can we go to find information or systems or processes that could help us streamline?
- How could we do this differently given all the information we’ve just discovered by asking all these question?
Don’t ever be afraid to ask questions. If you are a team leader or manager, then the most important part of your job is to encourage people to question everything. Scary I know – but how will you ever improve if you don’t ask great questions?
If you want a whole raft of great products to help you improve your ‘questioning’ skills – head over to Lindsay Tighe’s website – Better Questions – and be amazed at the improved results you will achieve.
Ann Andrews CSP
MD The Corporate Toolbox