Performance & Hotrod Business - April '15

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April 2015 n Performance & Hotrod Business n 103 deserve and require some "messy ques- tioning" that is balanced by a degree of disciplined, logical inquiry. Thinkers who are able to "shift gears" from the right to left side of the brain, and back and forth between logic and license will typically gen- erate deeper and more workable insights. See the Importance of Questioning One of the goals leaders should have is to teach their employees how to find or fashion satisfying answers to work-related puzzles by learning to ask good questions in effective sequences and combinations. As part of their human nature, most employees will tend to seek stability, pre- dictability and certainty in an uncertain world, instead of embracing the challenges associated with it. Instead of learning to use good questions to adapt and adjust to a changing world, they more often than not adopt a "foxhole" mentality. However, without experience handling unanswerable questions, employees will not be prepared to deal with the riddles of work and of life. As a second goal, it is up to leaders to share a sense of wonderment at the vast- ness of "what is unknown." In this regard, questions will often end up becoming a collection of segmented pieces and bits of inquiry whose answers are as confusing as individual puzzle pieces that have no frame or outline to place them into. The question becomes, "How can employees be motivated to relish the chal- lenge to find complex or difficult answers and solutions and how well will they be able to deal with ambiguity?" When leaders treasure and value the "mysterious and unknowable," and exten- sively question things themselves, always seeking answers (even if certain solutions remain abstract, unreliable or unattain- able) their employees will tend to become more prepared to deal with the puzzles of everyday situations, events, issues, as well as unforeseeable future occurrences. Not All Questions Are Created Equally There are five components and six main features of the questioning process, which are important to consider. To be effective, questioning needs to be precise, and to some extent, complex. Most effective questions tend to contain the following components: 1) Subject matter or topic. What, in the most general terms, is the questioning about? 2) Aspect or focus. This is the angle or point of view on the subject matter. What aspect of the subject matter is the questioning about? 3) Instruction or comment. This refers to question wording or phrasing. These inform the responder exactly what to think about before reacting and offering feedback. Some questions also contain the following components: 1) Restrictions or expansions of the subject matter. This is the detailed limitation of the topic; what, in specific terms, is the questioning about? 2) The questioner's point of view: This is dictated by the reasoning and goal behind the questioning process. Questioning Features Questioning is to some extent complex, formal, objective, explicit, hedged, and responsible. 1) Complex: Questions should contain fewer words and phrases than written and conversational language. In order to obtain specific information, questions need to be dense or concentrated in terms of what is asked for. Typically using more verb-based than noun-based phrases, questions should incorporate limited vocabulary within their topical contexts. 2) Formal: The fact that the questioning process is relatively formal implies that effective questions generally tend to avoid colloquial words and expressions. 3) Objective: Questioning in an objective manner is an effective and efficient tool for gathering more appropriate and reliable information in order to make a fixed and purposeful decision, or reach an unbiased conclusion. Within workplace environments, questioning should be far more objective than personal. The main emphasis of asking questions needs to be on the information that one wants to gain or impart by asking questions that progressively lead to self-discovery. 4) Explicit: Effective questioning is unambiguous about the relationship between the questioner and the context of the topic being questioned. It is the responsibility of the questioner to make questions clear to the responder and to clearly demonstrate how the various parts of the topic being questioned and responded to are related. These connections can be made explicit by the use of different signaling words within questions. 5) Hedged: In any kind of questioning, it is necessary to make decisions about one's stance before asking about a particular subject, or the strength of the claims being made as a result of asking certain types of questions. Question-hedging is done through limiting the extent of questions for one reason or another. Diluting or polluting a question's intent in an unclear or biased manner also does it. In either case, question-hedging confuses responders and hinders the total questioning process. 6) Responsible: In effective questioning, the questioner must be responsible for, and able to provide evidence and justification for, any facts or opinions that are made. The questioner is also responsible for having documented support for the questions being asked and their expected or anticipated responses. --Timothy F. Bednarz

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