Asking questions, and knowing when not to, can be a kind of ‘secret sauce’ that enables you and your team to be more efficient and effective. Questions can help you prioritize, clarify, and even make decisions, when you know how to use them.
This week, I speak with Pete Mockaitis, award-winning speaker and coach who helps professionals perform optimally at work, and host of How to be Awesome at your Job podcast.
Listen to Pete interview me about productive meetings in episode 321 of Awesome at Your Job.
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Read the related blog article: When to Ask Questions…And When Not To
- We don’t always ask clarifying questions for fear of looking stupid in front of our colleagues, but by not asking, we risk misunderstanding and doing the wrong work.
- There are six key things you want to clarify regarding deliverables: the timing, the process, the resources, the audience, and the motive.
- To help you prioritize, ask questions first to align on the goal: what does success mean? What does victory look like? What is the result, the output that we’re after? How do we define quality? Then ask the questions to determine what work to do: What actions will have the biggest impact on achieving the goal? (Typically 20% of our work makes for 80% of the impact.)
- If you don’t know the answer to a question, just say so and commit to finding the answers. Managers aren’t expected to have all the answers, but we are expected to move the work forward which may mean helping to find the answers.
- Avoid asking questions, especially in front of a group, when it’s clear the other person is not prepared to answer them. Take it off-line to avoid embarrassing them.
- Pause before asking a question in a meeting and reflect on whether the answer will materially impact your perspective, position or decision. Imagine the whole range of potential answers to your question and if from one extreme to the other, the decision is not at all changed, then you know that’s a question not worth asking.
- When making a decision and organizing your analysis or research, ask ‘what must be true for this to be a wise move’, and ‘how do we test for that’?
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