What is your “Quest” in your Question?

I believe questioning is an important skill to teach people for their own growth and development. Questioning is an early part of human development. My five-year-old son has questioned since the day he could talk. I believe his first word was “momma” and would not doubt “why” was his second. Maybe that’s a slight exaggeration. He is a strong willed and independent child who needs to organize the world around him. Though it becomes tedious at times, I hope he never stops asking questions that help guide and inform his decisions. I do, however, hope he stops questioning just to question. My goal is to help him learn to ask the right questions. Not simply “Why”.

The teaching going on in our home these days is to question back to find out what he hopes to gain from the answer he seeks. I will say to him, “Austin, that is a very good question. What do you think or hope the answer is?” He at times responds with “I don’t know”. I will then respond with, “What’s your guess?” His guess helps me understand his “quest”. What is he searching for? It’s been a long time since I was five and I have very little memory of my life from back at that age. I am amazed at the questioning of children and thought process they use to get to their questions.

In leadership, questioning is an important part of guiding people to the mission. Questions like, “How can we better serve our customer?” “How would you want your family member treated?” “If you could make one change to make us better, what would it be?” All questions that can help get your employees to think about the outcome or the mission they hope to accomplish. Kouzes and Posner in their book The Leadership Challenge (2007) refer to this as “keeping others focused and paying attention to what really matters in our workplace”.

Are you aware of why you are asking the questions you ask? Are your questions well thought out and asked with a purpose? I believe many times people ask questions without giving much thought about what they ultimately hope to accomplish with the answer. Next time you ask a questions, first ask why do I need to know? What do I hope to accomplish by having the answer? “What is the “quest” in the question?

Tim Geels – Senior Vice President of Organizational Development