Not All ?’s are Equal
I’ve posted before on the topic of questions and the impact of a well-timed question for an individual or organization. Based on some recent conversations/topic trends I’ve been watching on Facebook, I felt like it was a good time for round two. This time it’s a post on the nature or “types” of questions we ask.
We all have questions, but not all questions are created equal. The ability to ask great questions takes a lot more skill than most people think.
I’ve found that questions often fit into three categories:
- Questions that are actually statements in disguise. We’ve all seen or been the recipient of this type of question. I usually see them at conventions or with large groups where an individual gets up to ask a question and five minutes into their “question” you still haven’t heard a question. Often this type of question is a bit of a passive aggressive approach to undermine someone else while seeking to show that that person is the smartest in the room. Not only is this type of question easily spotted, but it also does the exact opposite of what the asker is hoping to accomplish.
- Questions created to get you the answer you want. The difference between number Question Type 2 and Question Type 3 has a lot to do with intent, which can be a tough thing to judge. This is often a problem with research in the leadership field, although this problem shows up in far more areas than just my own field of study. What makes these kinds of questions dangerous is because they can give us a false sense of reality, which can lead to major negative outcomes down the road. Further it leads us to rationalize away any answer that is not what we “want to hear.” These kinds of questions are the enemy of truth.
- Questions designed to generate understanding. The first two types of questions never provide data that is useful and are not only disingenuous at a certain level, but even more so, those types of questions prevent us from making good decisions as leaders. Question Type 3, more often than not, provides data that is uncomfortable and challenges to look deeper and to remain humble – key strengths of great leaders.