I (Maryanne) was in a staff meeting where our supervisor proposed some changes to our procedures. A few people voiced their frustrations with the changes and my supervisor said, “The way that we are currently doing this is clearly not the most efficient. I am hearing that you do not like my suggestions, so I would like to hear from you. What are your ideas and suggestions that will help us move forward and complete this task more efficiently?” We all sat in silence for a few minutes and then the ideas and suggestions started flowing. At the point my supervisor stopped trying to force a solution and invited her employees to share, the group became empowered and worked together to come up with a few different things to try. The key takeaway from this experience is the power of the question - What do you think?
One of the best tools in a leader’s toolbox is, a question. Asking questions takes practice, it is not always easy to do and there are some responses that you might not want to hear. Questions are a way to gather information and they are also a way to invite conversation.
Asking a question like “What do you think?” invites others into the conversation. It gives permission to share their ideas and provides opportunities for each of us to discover different options, ideas, and point of views. Asking clear concise questions provides less confusion and faster results. When leading, a good question gives the gift of knowing that what they think matters and the leader receives the benefit of different insights and ideas.
Here are some steps to question asking:
Be authentic and intentional in what you ask, when you ask it, and how you say it. Questions should not be confrontational, emotional, or blurted out inappropriately.
Make sure that you know what you are looking for when you ask you question. This can also help in how your word your question. Basically, what are you looking to get from your question? Are you looking for insights, data, support, conclusions, connection, or maybe just confirmation?
Listen. It is the most important part of asking a question is the sometimes the hardest. When you ask a question, you must be prepared to pay attention and listen non judgmentally to the response.
To be honest, I do not like to be told what to do. I must admit when my supervisor told us that we had to change our process my immediate response was frustration and probably a little anger. At the point she asked “What do you think? My feelings changed. I became engaged in the conversation and interchange of ideas and felt valued. Do not underestimate the transformative power of a question.