"Will she ever learn how to enter orders in the system?" "When will upper management give us better tools?" "Where did that lousy sales forecast come from anyway?" "Why can't they communicate better?" "Why doesn't the younger generation have the same work ethic as we do?" "What the *bleep* is the matter with them?" "Who made those bad parts?" "Who dropped the ball this time?"
Do you see a pattern here?
While these questions may help us feel better in the moment, do they really get us anywhere? Do they help us uncover facts, discover root cause, and solve problems? Do they help those on our team pull together to accomplish shared goals?
There is nothing to be gained from what we are labeling as "bitter questions," and in fact, they can destroy trust, motivation, and initiative. When the tone and tenor of our questions are blameful, others become defensive and use their energy to protect themselves rather than to solve and prevent problems. It's human nature. When we find ourselves surrounded by people who make excuses or blame others, we might want to look in the mirror. Is it something we said? Or the way we said it? Very Possibly. And, we can change that practice immediately and make a dramatic dent in the results we want and need.
So how can we improve our own performance and that of others through improving the quality of our questions? We call them "high gain questions." High gain questions are not so easily answered.
They are the kind of questions that cause us or others to stop and think. Really think, not react. In his book, QBQ! The Question Behind the Question, John G. Miller challenges us to take a look at the quality of questions we are asking. Miller teaches readers to construct better questions by following simple guidelines:
- Our questions should begin with "What" or "How" rather than "Why,""When" or "Who."
- Contain an "I" (NOT "they," "them," we" or "you")
- Focus on action.
Here are some examples:
"What can I do to communicate more effectively?'
"How can I better define my role here?"
"How can I learn more about what our customer needs?"
"How can I get the training I need to improve my work performance?"
"How can I add more value to the company and our customers?"
Miller coaches readers to empower themselves by practicing a huge measure of personal accountability in business and in life. Eliminating the costly practice of blame, complaining and procrastination is personally and professionally empowering and energizing.
We wholeheartedly agree with Miller, and as coaches, we help clients identify and tap into their own sources of power to accomplish their business and personal goals. One of our main coaching tools is high gain questions. The better the question, the better the thinking; and the more focused the individual or the team becomes.
Barriers disappear. Silos tumble down to enable and energize teamwork. Individuals naturally pull together and leverage their individual strengths and talents for the good of the whole.
This growing epidemic of blame, complaining and waiting for someone else to fix things is costing us dearly. Let this deadly epidemic be healed by us, one better question at a time.
Your Coaching Challenge, Should You Choose to Accept It:
Pay attention to the kinds of questions you are asking yourself and others? Do they tend to be bitter questions? Practice asking yourself better questions. For example, "What can I do to improve the situation?" "What can I do to strengthen the relationship?" "How might I become more effective at influencing the outcome?" Enjoy the benefits of clearer, more productive thinking.