“Would you like to come inside,” she said. It wasn’t a question. For a sentence to be a question, you had to care about the other person’s answer.”
–Full Fathom Five by Max Gladstone
Lots of leadership courses focus on teaching people to ask more and better questions. The challenge with asking questions is that you first must want to listen to the answers, and then you have to have the time and will to use it.
Many people have already decided what to do, but still try to include people by asking for their opinion. Other people don’t want to hear the feedback and will change the questions to make it very clear what they want to hear: Was the presentation good? Do you like it here?
You first have to make it ok to fail and be wrong in your organization, before people will start asking better questions.
“You could find out most things, if you knew the right questions to ask. Even if you didn’t, you could still find out a lot.”
– Iain M. Banks, The Player of Games
The important thing is not that you ask the perfect question that will reveal everything or that the person you asked the question completely changes their view of the world. The important thing is that you ask questions, and listens to the answers. Then based on the answer you could ask another question and slowly get to the heart of the matter. Or you could choose to go and ask someone else questions.
“The human eye is a wonderful device. With a little effort, it can fail to see even the most glaring injustice.”
– Richard K. Morgan, Altered Carbon
When we join a new organisation, we get a new role or become part of a new team we can easily see all the strange behaviours and norms that they have. After a while, the strange behaviors and norms seem to disappear, and we become blind to them as well.
As a manager or coach, we have an enormous challenge when we get new people on board. This first period is when people are least likely to give feedback, but it is also the time when we need to ask them for it.