By Andrea Bankier
You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions.” - Naguib Mahfouz, Nobel Prize Winner.
We find that today’s most dynamic and productive work environments are those which have adapted to foster a culture of curiosity, one that encourages a questioning mindset, allows for growth, new development, and the continual improvement of processes, products and services. In turn this often enables the creation of new discoveries along the way.
Adaptability towards a culture of curiosity can only occur in an environment where leadership and teams feel at ease, safe and secure, to question both openly and honestly. Yet, we find the skills of asking powerful, insightful questions is often misunderstood.
“Effective questioning brings insight, which fuels curiosity, which cultivates wisdom.” – Chip Bell
‘Asking’ rather than ‘telling or advising’ have become the key to successful leadership. By asking questions from an inquiring, discussion-point mindset, we encourage a culture of seeking solutions, self-confidence in being inquisitive and curious, building a strong base from which to face future work challenges.
Questions that inspire people are open-ended, beginning with “Why … How … What are your thoughts on …?”. They don’t tend to seek specific answers, but rather open a discussion to facilitate a collaboration of solutions, brainstorming, to seek better outcomes. Powerful questions focus on improvement, and a continual evolution of learning and development, that is not afraid to challenge or change.
“I’ve learned that asking questions isn’t a sign of weakness; rather, it demonstrates curiosity, engagement and intelligence.” - April Underwood.
Powerful questions are not confrontational or negative; creating a defensive response that jumps to justification. They do not focus on what is wrong or seek blame. They are calm, encouraging, and genuine, and their responses are received with gratitude and respect. Their purpose is to turn a problem into a question, that inspires our minds to automatically work on seeking the best solution.
Critical to the process, is allowing space and time to listen and reflect on new perceptions and ideas. Not all questions can be answered immediately, some need reflection and thought before the most inspiring and creative solutions are found. Try not to inhibit creative thinking with tight deadlines - as planting a seed of thought and allowing time for ideas to grow often leads to a more visionary, innovative path.
“It’s not that I’m so smart. But I stay with the questions much longer. The important thing is not to stop questioning.” – Albert Einstein
So, what questions do you regularly use to encourage curiosity?
Andrea Bankier is a senior consultant for Sheffield South Island. Andrea has a 20+ year track record of success as a consultant and facilitator across an extensive range of strategic and operational Human Resources and Organisational Development including Learning and Development, Leadership and Team Development, Performance Management, Talent Management, Change and Transition Management, Workforce Planning, Career Development and Leadership Coaching.