Had a situation come up this past week where I was reminded of how important it is that we learn to ask questions. Whatever the reason, our hesitation must be overcome, and sometimes we simply need to get less nervous and more courageous, even with strangers, and perhaps especially with those of higher authority — parents know this bravery is vital to our children’s well-being as they grow up.
The story, briefly: I’d gone to get my annual mammogram done, and switched my doctor and radiology facility. As women come to learn, we can all have minor masses in breast tissue, and the annual necessity of mammograms is because the radiologist who reads them looks for changes from one year to the next: It is change which may signal cancer, not mere presence. As the attending radiologist told me what he saw, I asked him enough questions about it, and volunteered enough additional info about my own known history, that he went on a diagnostic quest outside the norm after I had left him, retrieving my previous films from another hospital on another island — much to my benefit.
Whew. It was yet another instance where my ‘nagging habit’ of asking question upon question has served me exceptionally well.
And then other memories come back to me, of all the misunderstandings which occur when we don’t ask questions. So many factors can be at play, I know. Our relationships are riddled with unasked questions, and thus, unknown answers. In particular, the workplace is chock full of them, so let’s solve what we can influence.
Here are the assurances Alaka‘i managers must convey to their teams:
- Asking questions is NOT a sign of weakness.
- Asking questions is NOT a betrayal of your own intelligence.
- NOT asking questions when you should will usually be your biggest mistake.
When you ask questions, you get answers. At minimum, you get a bit more information, and a bit more info is normally what we all need to keep us moving forward.
However that’s common sense, isn’t it. It’s an example of sensibility we all have, and yet we’ll still hesitate: Reasons abound as to why people don’t ask questions when they should. And those diagnostics are the job of the Alaka‘i Manager: Seek out the reasons why people may not speak up on your team.
Why are they uncomfortable?
Why do they hesitate?
What is it that YOU need to do to make the atmosphere more conducive to questions?
What are the root causes at play which you need to deal with?
In starting your Quest for more Questions, try this:
Staff meetings, and other routine huddles, have a boring convention of report-giving: Those who conduct meetings will go around the table and ask for reports, wherein everyone will often hear what they already know, or are supposed to have read on email or in the company intranet. It’s a practice which eats up time by proliferating mediocrity. Yuck. DO continue getting everyone to speak, and contribute, but change it up by having everyone ask a question they feel others might have too, and stressing that you’ll all be ending your huddle with much more clarity.
Do the same thing in your one-on-one conversations: Finish them well by asking for questions, and by getting more comfortable with the golden silence in which people think before they speak. When you initiate a Daily Five Minutes and your receiver is unprepared, prompt them without leading them by saying, “Have you been wanting to ask me a question, about anything at all?”
Clarity trumps generic information in a huge way.
So as the adage reminds us: “Ask, and ye shall receive.” Ask well, receive well.