I don’t know about you but I feel bombarded with information on a daily basis. I am one who enjoys sifting through and synthesizing information but admittedly, I’m not always clear on what it all means. In my line of business it’s critical that I leverage the information available to do my job well and provide the right mix of information to my clients. While I take advantage of all the available “free stuff” (even subscribing to many of my competitors’ newsletters), I also purchase access to a great deal of information. And, in this economy, I am totally focused on getting the most out of my money. So - how do I know that I am getting the right information to do my job and serve my clients? Well, I read, re-read, annotate, work my learning journal and refine my notes until I get to that core message or bit of learning that resonates with me or looks like a good fit for a client. However, to ensure that I have clarity around the needed information and purpose, I ask questions and do so relentlessly.
Let’s face it – rapid and complex change is the new normal driving a huge dissemination of new and the churn of existing knowledge. You have to keep up with the learning that will make you a stronger and more skilled manager as well as provide you with the understanding of where you fit within an organization’s mission and exactly what you need to deliver to be successful. So the right mix is acquiring and absorbing the learning which will improve your skill set while integrating the particulars needed to execute on your work plan. Effective questioning can provide you with the facts you need and the clarity you seek to do your job and do it well. And yet, I find that many of my colleagues, friends and clients do not like to ask questions.
There are no stupid questions. How many times have you heard that? And – how many times have you not asked questions because you thought you might be perceived as “stupid”? At every important meeting or kick-off session that I attended there were always a cadre of Alpha types that used to comment about those who did ask questions. "Can you believe Jack asked Bob that?” “How is it possible that he didn’t know that?” “Did you see the look on the boss’ face when she asked that question?” The truth is that really - there are no stupid questions. If you don’t understand something you must ask about it. More importantly,you are entitled to all the information you need to do your job. The more you know – the better you’ll do and it will pay off immediately if you have clarity and can perform more efficiently. Here are a couple of tips to use when asking questions:
1. Keep it simple. Be direct and ask your question in a polite and professional manner.
2. Define exactly what it is you need to know before you ask the question. When you ask questions to gather information, use the words, precisely, specifically or exactly. This will help the person who will answer your question frame his response appropriately
3. Don’t ask a question in an argumentative or reactive way or to prove to the other person that you are right and she is wrong. We all see through this. It is better to…
4. State your assumptions and beliefs up front and then ask for the source to respond or state her opinion.
5. Be tactful. If it looks like the source is uncomfortable or doesn’t appear to know the answer, back off politely. You can always meet later, privately, to discuss your question.
The key take-aways are these:
· There really are no stupid questions – if you are confused rest assured you are not the only one.
· Confusion creates inefficiency. You will work faster and smarter if you have the information and clarity you need to proceed, and
· You deserve to know everything you need to be successful so go after it.
At Real Leadership Associates I work with clients to create awareness about what is known and unknown in the context of delivering on objectives and executing at peak levels. As your accountability partner I use the business coaching process to help you develop a highly effective and focused Q and A technique. Additionally, I will use my resources to provide advice and business knowledge that will help you be successful. Contact Beth
for more information.
Summer is almost halfway through. It always goes too fast so I hope you are making the best of it. I am! I'll be off to the beach by the end of the week. Have a good one and be safe. Talk to you next month!