In today’s complex, uncertain world, no one has all the answers. As human beings, it is easier to take the course of least resistance and align with what we already know, rely on the same sources for information, or respond to the fear created by “what if.” Your decisions can have a ripple effect resulting in unintended consequences. Questions and how you engage others in discovering what you don’t know are the solution to navigating what’s next.
As you go through your day, whether you are on Zoom with team members, discovering what caused the dent in your car, reading your friends third-party Facebook post, or listening to your favorite news anchor, ask yourself:
- What is the potential risk for you or others when you rely only on one source of information to gather enough facts, create a solution, or decide on a course of action?
- What is the impact of a meeting or conversation (and the questions you ask) when no one is clear on the discussion’s purpose and outcomes?
- What happens to the mutual understanding of an opportunity or problem when you ask a question and immediately interrupt without sufficient time to respond? What is the potential impact on others who observe that behavior?
- What is the commitment when you don’t engage the right people so they can ask their questions?
O.K. You know the textbook answers. In the past, you have always known the right questions to get the answers you needed. The challenge is stepping back and noticing your biases and behaving differently to improve the outcome. Asking questions is not easy in today’s world, where unrelenting complexity, volatility, and uncertainty shape decisions.
Whether you are a leader, team member, or parent, you can check the assumptions and unwanted emotions that lead to faulty decision-making :
- Ask open-ended questions for which there are no answers to explore new possibilities and solutions when returning to normal is elusive. What don’t we know? What if the opposite were true?
- Rely on diverse sources of information to open up your perspective. Who thinks differently than you do? Explore other fields for solutions.
- Listen to connect vs. confirm or reject. Listen to the tone of voice. Sacarism usually holds truth. Acknowledge any discrepancies with words and voice tone.
- Ask who else you can include expanding on questions that others might avoid.
Choose your questions (and words) wisely.