Most of us would probably agree our childhood years were the most inquisitive, as we were eager to learn the what and why of almost everything that crossed our path. Somewhere along the way to adulthood, however, we tend to conform to a style that refrains from exploring our curiosities.
I’m sure at some point or another we’ve all been guilty of falling into the trap of not wanting to ask questions, especially in group settings. Sometimes we fear the question may appear silly or that we may even come across as defiant. Questions can be interpreted as challenging the presenter, especially if it’s your boss, when all we really want to do is learn more about the topic.
Working remotely has got me thinking about how organizations can strategically integrate the art of asking questions into their work culture where it’s encouraged and embraced to sustain a better learning environment.
One of the benefits of asking questions is the learning opportunity it provides. Our inquisitiveness helps us paint a better picture in our minds, one that may not have been so clear had we not asked for further clarification.
Questions also enable us to connect and establish bonds as we engage with one another. Organizations are likely to experience more innovative solutions and improved products because of the experience sharing that comes from asking questions.
- A tactic I like to utilize to encourage employees to ask questions is providing everyone an opportunity to give their input. Input doesn’t always come in the form of a question, but one comment or word can spark an idea, and sometimes that’s all it takes to get the momentum going.
- Another way to promote questions is by asking them yourself. Present your own questions and begin to create the learning environment you want to see implemented. You can also help employees connect the dots by answering the infamous what, why, when and how so they can see the value of asking tactical questions.
Changing an organization’s work culture to embrace asking questions in an era where we’re constantly pressed for time is likely to be a challenging task, but a worthwhile investment in the long run given its benefits.
Questions lead us to explore perspectives and identify solutions that may not have been previously considered. Our inquisitiveness keeps us motivated and engaged and enables us to hold each other accountable.
Working remotely with limited face-to-face encounters, questions and generative conversations should be more encouraged by leaders to confirm employees are collectively aligned and working toward the same goals. The next time you have a question but feel reluctant to ask, may you be inspired by your curiosity and let the art of asking questions lead the way.
Ozlem is a senior management official currently working for the Director of the Office of Communications at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). She’s been employed at the IRS for 16 years, possessing a wide range of experience from the Collections, Engagement & Retention Office and the Strategy and Organizational Improvement Office to name a few.