Don’t Question Me! How To Start Asking The Right Questions

by Angel McNeil, Contributing Writer


In my last post I shared that I want to help organizations and millennials start to figure out what their next move might be. The end of summer is the perfect time to reflect and use all that stored up energy to give 100% to your next project. This post will focus on the first step of the six-step process to answering that question “What’s Next?”

Think back to your last event, service project or initiative that you participated in. What made it successful? What are some areas of improvement? These are the typical debriefing questions that drive our ability to make changes and improve things for the next go round. In Casey Reason’s book “Leading a Learning Organization,” he shares that the first step that anyone needs to do is really think about what questions they need to ask. Reason shares that the questions that we ask come in two categories: ineffective and effective. Most organizations that don’t succeed or figure out what to do next, ask the wrong questions- the ineffective questions. Ineffective questions don’t empower others, and spend more time finding fault than finding solutions.

So what should you be asking? The effective questions.

2102404Effective questioning does the exact opposite. Effective questions are ones that are positive. They bring everyone to the table, and start to lead an organization towards what they really should do next. It helps you to learn from the last thing you did whether the outcome was successful or not.

They key to effective questioning is that it doesn’t negate the problem. Rather it frames the concerns in a way that allows for a more solution focused conversation to begin. Effective questioning does not create an environment for just another gripping session. We don’t need another one of those. So instead of asking your team, “Who thought it was a good idea to set the registration table up so far over there?”, ask them, “Where might we be able to re-position the registration table to maximize the flow of people into the event?”

To help in your next question and brainstorming session I have turned a few more common ineffective questions into effective questioning. Use these questions either with your board or committee or even with yourself to help you start to figure out what direction is best.

Ineffective vs. Effective

Ineffective: Why didn’t more people come to our event?
Effective revision: How can we make our event stand out so that people will want to attend?

Ineffective: Why don’t more people pull their own weight?
Effective revision: What kind of people do we need to recruit to do the work that we are trying to do?

Ineffective: What if we don’t succeed?
Effective revision:  What do we need to do to make sure we meet our goal?

Ineffective: What if we don’t have the money to do ______________?
Effective revision: Where should we look for resources that will help us to do ___________?

Ineffective: Why won’t anyone take any initiative?
Effective revision: What supports do we need in place? What are some people’s strengths, interests? How can we incorporate them into our next initiative?

What are some questions that are commonly asked in your organization? Are they effective or ineffective? How can you change ineffective questions into effective ones?

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