As we move from isolated Lean “events” to Lean Management, producing Lean Managers becomes more and more critical, bad leaders don’t necessarily ask questions – they just tell you and broadcast things outward. Part of managing a lean organization, however, requires that our lean managers know how to manage, coach, and teach. A critical part of teaching is knowing how to ask the effective questions. Bottom line: Great Leaders Ask Questions. And, unhappy employees lead to unhappy customers. Don’t forget that.
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Asking questions is a skill and, when done well, leads to effective leadership and good management of a business and people. But, the opposite is also true: when wrong questions are asked, then that leads to poor management and bad leadership.
Before going into examples of effective questions, below are ineffective ways to ask questions:
- Positioning: “I know I’ve been working here for 2 months, but . . .”
- Avoidance: Ignoring the obvious elephant in the room.
- Posturing: “The VP listens to whatever I say. So, why . . .” – in other words, projecting an “I’m in charge” or “I’m better” image prior to asking the question.
- Speaking in Jargon: In general, use clear and plain language. One litmus test I use is whether my Filipino Immigrant mother will understand what you are saying. If the answer is “No”, then let’s try to explain more clearly.
- “No Question” Question: This is confusing. Making a statement, but using an intonation that makes it sound like a question. It’s another way of making a statement, but pretending it’s a question. For example, “When I managed this department, we always met our monthly metrics. It wasn’t even hard, right?”. If you notice, this is really a statement about how good this person managed the department, but it’s couched as a question.
- Casual Question: All questions have context. So, there’s really no casual questions.
The above are common errors we fall into in asking questions. Knowing the above is good so that we are careful in how not to frame our questions.
So, how do we frame our questions? That’s a topic for our next article. Stay tuned.
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#4 reminded me of one of Richard Feynman’s sayings: if you can’t explain something simply and clearly, you don’t understand it well enough.