A recent study concluded that the average adult processes over 6,000 thoughts daily. How fascinating! They must include questions, assumptions, reliving experiences be it positive or negative. But what I have discovered, is that questions can be an immensely powerful tool for thriving in the marketplace.
From speaking to HR professionals and observing people, communication skills and interpersonal relationships are still very much relevant today post-Covid era. And guess what? The ability to frame the right questions is not far off. I have also discovered during my leadership journey that the ability to process thoughts and ask the right questions can be the deciding factor within (critical thinking) and without (problem solving). When the wrong questions dominate your thoughts, you will certainly churn out the wrong questions that may affect execution and the results. It can even affect how clients or employers judge you.
Let me share a quick example. Early in my career, I got frustrated leading my team. I expected them to be at par with me, assumed they should figure out unforeseen circumstances and mitigate a lot of risks. I kept asking questions like “how could she not know that?’’, “Why is this guy so incompetent,” “Why can’t they think on their feet?” And then it dawned on me that I was asking the wrong questions. I was frustrated, spent, overwhelmed and angry. Of course, it affected project outcomes negatively. One moment we are putting out a fire we could have avoided, the other, we are exasperated from a poorly executed project.
If only I had rephrased the questions like “what tools can I make available to empower and enable my team to succeed?” “Have I shared enough information required to excellently execute the project? Intentionally training your mind to ask the right questions is particularly important, but that is a topic for another day. But here is what questions has enabled me to do better.
COMMUNICATE WITH CLARITY
I struggled a lot with passing instructions to people. When it happened often with different people, I knew I was the problem. And I used to run with a lot of assumptions then; most exonerating me from taking responsibility. Now I ask questions no matter how silly they may sound. A leader is better off with a knowledgeable team armed with enough artillery to get the job done on the field. And when they started asking counter questions like “Why do you want us to do it this way? How about …” That was when I realised that the culture of producing the right questions was beginning to sink. And the exercise has paid off.
DELIVER BETTER RESULTS
The result from clarity is unimaginable. If teams are given all the trust they need, clarity from framing the right questions spark teams to deliver results no matter what. It gives teams an unusual confidence and boldness, like the invincible Arsenal side going into the new season after going undefeated throughout the last campaign. That is the hotspot any good leader craves for.
One thing we avoid is asking only questions that stop us in our tracks or paralyzes us with fear. I encourage my team to come with questions that can spark creativity and avoid potential risks. I know it is almost impossible to eliminate all risks but minimizing them is a good thing to do. With changes in customer behaviour and preferences, the speed of technology and the role regulatory bodies play, you certainly cannot eliminate it all.
Finally, “as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he,” King Solomon argued in the book of Proverbs 23:7. Questions are powerful, and they emanate from our thoughts. The type of questions you ask can be the great divide between the achievers and the complainers. What is it going to be? Over to you.