“If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the question – for once I know the question, I could solve the problem in 5 minutes.” Albert Einstein
We don’t have to be Einstein to know the importance of asking the right questions. The late Stephen Covey, in his work, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, pointed out the lesson by reminding us, “seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Eric Schmidt, the former CEO of Google responsible for leading the build-out of their infrastructure for rapid growth, proclaimed, “We run this company on questions, not answers.”
Ask More Questions
The more questions we ask, the more we increase our likelihood of finding better answers. The better our answers, the smarter we can become. Most of us have spent at least some time with 4 and 5 year olds, and it’s no surprise they spend much of their time asking questions. A recent study in the UK found the average parent answers 23 questions per hour (testingmom.com).
Admittedly, that ratio may be a bit zealous for most of us as working professionals (sans auditors, attorneys and other research/information-dependent professionals). However, we could all do ourselves and our organizations a favor by going on a quest to stir up more curiosity. In a rapid-growth organization, it’s a necessity. Here are a few reasons why:
· CREATIVITY AND INNOVATION are core competencies for leaders in dynamic and fast-paced organizations. Want to be more innovative? Ask more questions.
Questioning is the hallmark of an innovative problem-solver. Sir Isaac Newton first asked the simple question, “What makes an apple fall straight down from a tree?” before he could begin to explain the law of gravity.
· HEALTHY CONFLICT MANAGEMENT is a key success measure of high performing teams (Lencioni, The Five Dysfunctions, 2002).
Pressure and the accompanying stress can be rampant in launching a platform, working on a client resolution, or capturing a new deal. The most effective leaders and team members ask more questions to understand each other and the situation, build trust and navigate disagreement in achieving a collaborative state.
· ACTIVE LISTENING is one of the four key identifiers of high emotional intelligence (Inc., May 2017).
In 1995, Goleman debuted the concept of EI in his work appropriately titled, Emotional Intelligence. Increasingly, emotional intelligence behaviors are being sought as companies look for these markers in world-class leaders. Great leaders discerningly ask enough of the right questions, then listen to get to the heart of the solution.
Here’s the first question: How can we all start today?
We need to get out of our own way and open our minds to new possibilities. Everything around us is changing – the problems have changed, so the answers will change.
Dispel the myth.
Contrary to what some believe, asking questions makes us look smarter and stronger, not uninformed or weak.
In the rush to get to market or implement quickly, taking the time to ask critical questions is often overlooked. This results in a slower launch or a re-do on many execution-based items.
Have a problem to solve? Then go on the quest to ask more questions to get the answers needed to create and sustain growth.