This is the first in a 6-part series exploring the Art and Science of Inquiry.
It’s not an accident that my Kindle is filled with titles about asking questions. In the book Power Questions, Andrew Sobel states:
“Good questions are often far more powerful than answers”
I remember hearing “don’t answer my question with a question!!” as a kid. Of course, that was from a parent trying to discipline a petulant child. Yet there are times when asking questions is uncomfortable; times when I think it may cause me to appear difficult or stupid or both. Maybe you’ve felt that too?
In my first sales position I was uncomfortable asking questions. Short on years and long on ego I thought that knowing the answers established me as the expert; even without knowing the question… Ouch! Gratefully I was fired; a course-correction that led me to communication skills training. What a relief to learn that as I improved my questions (and listening) things got easier. Later I saw that the questions I was least comfortable asking resulted in the greatest success; AND fewer trips down the rabbit hole. As I mastered increasingly impactful questions the result was time-money freedom.
Peter Drucker, known for his challenging questions, states he’s not a “consultant” he’s an “insultant”. It takes courage to ask sometimes unwelcome questions that disrupt business-as-usual; questions that invite a course-correction for no apparent reason. Questions that challenge perspectives and assumptions require leadership and can cripple those who are unaware or unskilled in their use.
“Questions allow us to project into an imagined future and identify potholes before we step in them”
Engaging questions is like investing.
…Think of a time you were reluctant to invest in formulating a question that could have improved an outcome.
… Now think of a time when a well-placed question altered the course of a relationship or revealed information you would never have imagined.
“Whether asking or answering questions, you invest in a creative sometimes vulnerable process”
What is your level of investment? Are you comfortable allowing time for inquiry? Do you welcome an uncomfortable question that may reveal a faulty assumption? Are people who offer alternative viewpoints a nuisance or a gift?
“Questions clarify and focus intentions, ensuring that actions align with your VISION and PURPOSE”
This creative process sets aside opinions in favor of possibility. It can also be messy and vulnerable in the near-term so you may notice yourself resisting.
For fun, on a scale of 1-5, what is your Question Comfort-Zone?
- I don’t ask questions; I know how things are going to go.
- I ask questions but while the person is answering, I’m planning how to move the conversation back to me.
- I ask questions because I know it helps my business but find myself taking the feedback personally.
- I ask questions because I’m interested in other perspectives.
- I ask questions because I know that my filters limit my viewpoint and that inquiry is the fastest way to learn and grow.
These questions are the result of an actual Networking/Mastermind meeting I attend. I am grateful that a representative for each “personality” was at the meeting. More about it in next week’s blog.
Certified Transformational Coach