Many times we hold back on asking a question because we don’t want to look uninformed. We don’t want people to think, “They should already know that!”
Even savvy business consultants sometimes fall into this trap. But asking questions is critical to both being perceived as a leader, and to getting the information you need to lead effectively.
I worked with an actuary who was known for asking a lot of questions. In fact, colleagues gave him a nickname, “Shut up, Sam.” (OK, his name wasn’t really Sam – I just wanted to preserve some anonymity.)
A number of years later, Sam was in a senior role, with many of those colleagues’ former bosses now reporting to him.
Asking questions is the best vehicle for taking your understanding of issues to the next level, and avoiding hidden obstacles that trip up others. It’s how you uncover the true motivators in a high value conversation, building critical rapport and establishing the most important issues to discuss. That said, there are ways to ask the questions that ensure you are also putting yourself in a positive light.
You are fairly new at Telatyne. In your first meeting with the Chief Operating Officer, Sue tells you that she uses bench marking extensively in her operations. You’re itching to know more, as it will be important to understanding those operations at a deeper level, but you’re afraid that you will look uninformed if you ask, “What do you mean by bench marking?”
What do you do?
Just do a little framing of the question. You might say:
“Sue, my experience is that every company and operation means something slightly different when they talk about bench marking. What’s Telatyne’s definition?”
Now you actually look like you are asking an intelligent question, and it’s implied that you have knowledge of these issues.
You can expand on this a bit to show more knowledge of the subject, like this:
“Sue, I’ve found that every company and operation I’ve worked with applies bench marking in a different way. For example (throw in one or two different ways). How does Telatyne go about its bench marking?”
The next time you are hesitant to ask a question for fear of looking uninformed, apply this framing technique to overcome your hesitancy. You will get the information you need, while also showing true leadership. Leave a comment and let me know how it works out.