Make Question Asking a Habit

I heard about a woman who had several children in elementary school. She asked them daily, “How was school today?” and was frustrated with the lack of response which school kids mutter.

She got better results with a different approach. She began to ask them, “What questions did you ask today?”

I had a class once where the teacher emphasized the importance of questions. It was a class about leadership and business success. He described several strategies of the successful. He said that successful listeners focus on asking questions rather than giving answers.

If you think about it, it makes sense. Early in school we are trained to give answers. The more you answer, the more praise you receive. Answers get you an “A” and an “atta girl.” That’s how you get ahead.

But, if you are giving answers, you’re talking. If you’re talking, you’re not listening. If you’re not listening, you can’t be learning.

The teacher made this point: “We all know what we know. Many times the breakthroughs in business and problem solving don’t come from what is known, but what is unknown. People who ask good questions bring the unknown to life.”

When I interview people or give them a tour, I pay attention to the questions the candidate asks. The deeper the question, the more she reveals what she knows. The more frequent the questions, the more they demonstrate their zest for learning. The better each question that follows, the more they prove they assimilate new information and listen well.

Conventional wisdom says give answers. Extraordinary wisdom says make question asking a habit.

So you didn’t go to school today, but you did enter the “learning lab” we call work. What questions did you ask today?