I used to think it was not polite to ask questions. When I started consulting I made a very conscious decision to change to that program. There are three reasons.
The first reason was to be more successful at meeting and getting to know new people. Creating a trusted network of colleagues was crucial to my business–both to grow the business and to have the best support to help clients be successful. I learned to ask caring questions, then listen to build trust and deep relationships. (And I received a lot in return.)
The second reason I found to to ask more questions was to learn want I needed to know to be a good consultant. To help clients I needed to first understand what was going on–rather than assuming.
The third reason was to help my clients and colleagues learn. I found that we humans learn much more quickly when we discover the answer for ourselves, and a great path to discovery is to consider the answer to a question–rather than be told. (Actually I learned this as a coach for Solution Selling training a long time ago, then practiced more earnestly as a consultant.)
Recently in my work as a product marketing manager at Red Hat, my boss and I were discussing this concept and I realized that I have crossed over to a point where I default to asking a question rather than just providing the answer (unless it’s a simple question such as where’s the supply cabinet). Asking helps me to better understand the other person and their request, and often results in a collaborative conversation that gives a better result in the long run.
My boss and I concluded that most of time a good question is better than a great answer.
I wish I could say I always lead with a question, but I am still practicing. Next week I’ll share some specific examples.
What about you? Where do questions fit in your conversation style? Do you use them in a way I have not mentioned?
My best wishes for lots of great questions to come your way!