The eleven year old has recently gone to high school and is struggling a little bit because there’s already a significant shift from the freedom he had at primary school to ask why. They’re being prepared for the big bad world outside and are learning how to conform. Is this where it starts? Maybe not, as I have to admit, the incessant questions at times are incredibly irritating and so, as a parent, I also play my part in dampening the inquisitive. I love the questions when it’s something I’m interested in and they’re asked at a time when I can enjoy the discussion, however “Mum I’ve been thinking. How many blades of grass do you think are on our lawn?” posed at 10.30 at night when he should have been asleep for an hour are somewhat more difficult to engage with.
I’ve interviewed and managed hundreds of people in my career and I can only once remember someone telling me one of their strengths was an inquisitive nature, and even then it was said half apologetically, as though a quest for the why was an irritation. Yet, if we don’t ask questions and challenge things how do we make changes, learn new things and improve ways of working?
I talk about questioning when training and coaching for all aspects of management; interviewing, development reviews, dealing with poor performance, conflict, absence and exit interviews to name a few. Posing great questions to an individual or group can transform a session as can dismissing someone’s opinion while they’re answering.
It’s easy to blame growing up on losing this inquisitiveness, but I think there’s more to it than that. I think ego gets in the way, hierarchy and the dreadful fear of being found out. So what if I don’t know where the flame goes? Dismissing the questions as irritating certainly isn’t how I’ll find out. I encourage you to get your teams to ask questions, have a debate and delve a bit deeper. It’s amazing what you might find out. Making mistakes and being wrong is the way we learn new things.
It’s the new year, time to make a change and do things differently so, assuming you’ve given up on the diet, dry January and the exercise regime, my new year challenge is to ask more questions and make time and space to think about them.
Here are a few to start with:
- What would you do if time weren’t an issue?
- What does your job give you that you otherwise wouldn’t have?
- What are you like when you are your absolute best?
- How many paperclips do you think are in the building? 😉