The art of the question
What single action has the greatest impact, either positive or negative, on productivity?
This is not a trick question; it’s a great question, because it invited you to think!
Consider for a moment, you had the art of using questions really ‘taped’ when you were a toddler. Your questions taught you everything you needed and wanted to know in a strange and often threatening world.
You could get peoples attention, have them focus on you, respond to your needs and perhaps satisfy your desires. This made you more competent and confident; in the process, many of them felt fulfilled in their role as parent or older sibling. Then it all changed! They decided to limit your use of this powerful communication tool because it wasn’t always comfortable. Your teachers discovered that it was frequently more convenient to have you accept their ideas without questions since this took less time and effort on their part. In a short while, you lost the desire and the skill to use questions to manage your world.
Take heart – it’s easily regained. Here are three pointers that will have you moving in the right direction once more, and you’ll be amazed at how this will change your fortunes and your relationships.
Firstly, a great question is any question that invites a mind to open and to share – this is engagement!
Secondly, effective questions have two components – they have a clear purpose and they build on relationships. In short, the outcome has been properly considered and the residue / legacy is positive.
Thirdly, questions that work are both closed (direct) and open (expansive). A direct question is a good way to attract attention and to initiate or close a conversation. Open or expansive questions are an excellent way to encourage value added content in between. Here’s a typical process for a question-based conversation:
- Can we talk about this? (closed - makes for a safe conversation)
- How does this situation look to you? (opening - invites contribution in a non-threatening way)
- How could this be handled in the most effective way? (open - asks for original input)
- What do you see as the consequences? (opening – defines action and transfers responsibility)
- When will we see results? (closed – confirms intended action)
Was that painful? Could you do this? In what ways would it benefit you? Could I assist you?
When will you start?
MASc, FIoD, CMS is an experienced behavioral scientist and executive coach who’s dedicated to bringing out the best in individuals and groups. His insights and direct contributions have taken business leaders to elevated dimensions in performance. He can be reached through his websites at www.andros.org and www.polarisprogram.com © 2011 Andros Consultants Limited. All rights reserved.