Early in my career I worked in the engineering department for a Fortune 500 company. Two or three times a week Bill, the Department Manager walked down the halls bombarding every
employee with the following questions.
“Hey! How’s it going?
Are you busy?
Are you having fun?
Anything I can do for you?”
He didn’t pause or even slow his pace as he talked. In his mind, he was “engaging” employees – showing them he cared. In fact, he was doing just the opposite. We knew he didn’t want to talk to us and sure didn’t want to be bothered if we had a question or a new idea.
The business leaders I work with today are genuinely interested in their employees and actively solicit ideas and opinions. The best ones come up with creative and unique ways to problem solve. They do it by asking questions. They’ve discovered that “questioning the unquestioned” often leads to innovative new ideas and creative ways of looking at things. The questions asked are as important as the answers they receive.
Here’s what I’ve learned from listening to these leaders.
Ask, “What’s the objective?”
When someone makes a suggestion for improvement, ask about the purpose. Don’t rush in to improve a process unless you know what you want to accomplish.
- What’s the goal?
- Are there potential risks involved in implementing the new idea?
Teaching employees to offer suggestions and alternativeswithout considering the downside is imprudent. Implementing alternatives without objectives and goals can create frustration and loss of clarity.
Pause and Ponder
New ideas are exciting and often the person with the idea is filled with the adrenaline of anticipating action. Rushing into action may chase away a deeper understanding and awareness of consequences and benefits.
Stop and ponder. Let the purpose of the idea percolate and simmer. In the early stages of problem solving the simple act of paying attention to your thoughts can often provide the few degrees of adjustment that bring greater insight. Everyone has hunches, impressions and the delicate beginnings of unformed new ideas. Absorb them. Listen to them. Learn from them.
Find out what people will LOVE about the idea
What will the recipient of your idea really love? Not just like, not just feel better about, but what difference would they love?
Just voicing that question stirs up creative energy. It moves people from the ordinariness of coming up with a good idea to the power of what “could be”.
In his book “Great work: How to Make a Difference People Love”, David Sturt found that asking the right questions:
- Increased the odds of someone having a positive effect on others by 4 times
- Made the outcome 3.1 times more likely to be deemed important
- 2.8 times more likely to create passion in the doer, and
- Most significant to company leaders, the right questions were 2.7 times more likely to make a positive impact on the organization’s bottom line.
Asking good questions can have a huge impact on your organization. Want to know more? Check out David Sturt’s video “Great work: How to Make a Difference People Love”