Sunday I was in Ludington Michigan on a cloudy overcast day. The weather forecast was for rain most of the day. I was about to eat breakfast with my Mom and Step Dad. When I sat down the waitress asked me what I wanted to drink, then she asked me the question that lead to this post.
“Is it still raining or is it done?”
At the moment it wasn’t raining, but clearly according to both the clouds and the weather report it would rain again during the day.
I answered letting her know it wasn’t raining when I walked in, but that I was sure it wasn’t done.
After she walked away I thought about the error in her question and how that error – and other assumptions – keep us from asking the best questions, the questions that will really give us the information we need or help us solve the problem we face.
The twin flaws in her question were lack of clarity and presuming a black and white world. When you observe the questions asked around you, you will notice these problems with questions all the time. Compounding the problem is asking these flawed questions via email, IM or text where thy can be taken further out of context or misunderstood.
Ask more open ended questions, and be clear on what you are wanting to learn before you ask.
This is important advice for everyone of course, but the impacts for us as leaders are profound. Because of our position, people may be cautious in communicating with us, meaning they are more likely to take the question at face value – meaning the importance of us asking clear and effective questions is elevated even further.
Asking great questions is a hallmark of a great communicator, a great learner and and great leader.
Take my short experience on Sunday and place it into the context and situations around you. It will help you ask better questions, get better answers and create greater results for everyone.