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Leaders Need to Focus on Questions Rather Than Offering Answers

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The tactical approach to questioning is a highly disciplined process. The questioner must take on the role of acting as “an inner critical voice,” which expands another’s mind to skillfully develop deeper critical thinking abilities.

Questioning for thought provoking insight and understanding, and for inducing more in-depth thinking in another individual requires a tactical approach. For instance, verbal contributions that come from employees when they are questioned can be compared to an array of numerous thoughts that simultaneously flow from one’s mind. Yet, all of the thoughts must be dealt with, weighed, and carefully analyzed in an unbiased and fair manner.

If leaders or managers follow up on all of the answers initially given by employees with further questions that work to advance the discussion, employees are forced to think in a disciplined, intellectually responsible manner. At the same time the questioning process continually aids their own personal agenda to gain more insight and knowledge through posing selective, yet effective facilitating discussion lead-ins.

The oldest and still most powerful tool for instilling critical thinking and mental self-evaluation, is questioning. In order to glean and gather as much usable information as possible, and to change individual perceptions about something, leaders and managers must remain focused on interjecting questions to employees, rather than offering answers.

It is important to practice and model the inquiry process, by continually probing employees on topics, subject-related contexts or mental thinking patterns through the use of very specific questions. The abilities individuals gain by becoming involved in the process and by focusing on the elements of reasoning in a disciplined and self-assessing way tend to enhance employees’ sensitivity to others’ points of view, problem solving and decision making skills. A solid questioning process also helps provide a more balanced mental structure and framework to use in the future, which results from generating and incorporating logical mental relationships that tend to enhance more disciplined thought.

There are three basic ways to instill changes and alterations in employees’ thinking: questioning them for viewpoints and perspectives, questioning them for implications and consequences, and questioning them about the question being asked.

Questioning for Viewpoints and Perspectives

As the discussion and questioning leader, it is important encourage employees to slow their thinking down in order to elaborate upon their responses. Employees must be given the opportunity to develop and test their ideas, standpoints and opinions. Leaders must take employee responses seriously and determine to what extent and in what way the information or assertion is true, or if it makes sense. In order to do this, they need to wonder aloud what the employee is saying and thinking, what the person means, the response’s significance, its relationship to other beliefs, and how what is being said can be tested for its reliability.

Most arguments employees give are from a particular, yet structured point of view. As part of the “questioning for viewpoints and perspectives” process, it is essential to attack the argument from a tactical position. It is often necessary to demonstrate that there may be other, equally valid, viewpoints. Some examples of specific questions that are able to generate alternative viewpoints include:

  • What else could be accomplished by doing ____?
  • If we don’t have access to ____ or can’t use ____, what do you think should be done?
  • What are the positives and negatives of ____?
  • How do you think ____ and ____ are alike?
  • Another way to think about this is ____, do you agree?

Implications and Consequences Questions

The argument that employees often give may have logical implications, which can be forecasted. From an “implications and consequence questioning” position, employees should have their arguments challenged. The process requires them to think about if their argument or stance makes sense from a logical standpoint, and if what they say, is desirable and meaningful. Some examples of argument challenging questions include:

  • What are you implying by saying that?
  • What else does this remind you of?
  • How does this information fit into the things we have already learned?
  • What implications does ____ have on this?
  • Why is this necessary to know?
  • What do you think would happen next?
  • What is an alternative to this?
  • If what you said happened, what else could happen as a result? Why?

Questions About the Question

Questions about the question tend to be more reflective. Their purpose is to turn an argument, statement or question back onto itself. In other words, leaders can use questions like the ones below to bounce the ball back onto the employees’ personal argument, position or stance:

  • How can we find out more about what you are saying (or asking)?
  • What assumptions does this question imply?
  • Why do you feel this question is important?
  • To answer this particular question, what questions would have to be answered first?
  • Does this certain question ask us to evaluate something in particular?
  • What is the point of asking about ____?
  • Why do you think the question you asked is important for (me, us) to consider?
  • Why did you phrase this particular question in the way that you did?
  • Does this question fit into the context of our discussion?
  • What does this particular (question, stance, position or opinion) imply?
  • Is it possible to break this question down at all into one or two other ones?
  • Do you think this question is an easy or hard one to answer? Why?
  • Does this question seem clear to you?

Excerpt: Effective Questioning Techniques: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 19.95 USD

Related:

Why Is The Person Asking The Question In The First Place?

Making the Questions as Important as the Answers

Correctly Framing Problems Pinpoints the Right Solution

For Additional Information the Author Recommends the Following Books:

The Use and Application of Advanced Questioning: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Effective Questioning in the Workplace: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Developing Critical Thinking Skills: The Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series

Comprehensive Questioning: The Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

 

Questioning Positions Advance the Dialogue

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questioningpeople

Before asking questions, it is essential to know from what position an individual wishes to ask something. It is part of the questioning process to determine the stance he or she needs or wants to take in order to obtain the desired information. It is useful to adhere to the following steps in order to begin defining and determining question positioning.

First, the issue, concern or topic must be defined along with restrictions or expansions. Next, the main topic or issue “aspect,” or the angle or point of view on the matter is identified. The “aspect” often includes a phrase within a certain question that tends to end in “of,” as in “the importance of” or “the implications of.”

It is essential to be clear about how the “aspect” relates to the topic at hand. Aspect questions can reflect an example, a point of view, a stage in the questioning sequence, a cause and effect relationship within the topic or issue, or even one solution that represents a problem in regard to it.

The questioning “aspect,” which often comes at the beginning, must also be identified along with what it means and what it requires in terms of incorporating specific words and phrases. The particular viewpoint must be delineated as well as whether it is the same one the questioner wants the responder(s) to have.

The individual asking questions should not jump to conclusions about what they consider to be an acceptable answer. Different questioning positions or stances should be applied to move dialogue and information-gathering forward.

Below is a list of the most common questioning positions to take with examples.

Account for – Requires an answer that gives the reasons for the subject of the question:

  • Can you tell me why there is a need for the large-scale production cutbacks?”

Analyze – Requires an answer that breaks an idea, concept or statement down in order to consider all of its components. Answers of this type should be very methodical and logically organized:

  • “How do you go about isolating the changes in company policy toward our competitors?”

Compare – Requires an answer that sets items side by side and shows their similarities and differences. A balanced, fair and objective answer is expected:

  • “Will you tell me about the contribution of our research development and product testing in regard to the product distribution cycle?”

Consider – Requires an answer in which the responder describes and offers his or her thoughts on the subject:

  • “In what way has our human resources management department been involved in the training of our employees?”

Contrast – Requires an answer that points out the differences between two items:

  • “Will you inform me about the various positive and negative factors and influences in regard to our major competitive products?”

Criticize – Requires a balanced answer that points out mistakes or weaknesses, or one that also indicates any favorable aspects of the topic or subject of the question.

  • “To what extent is an understanding of the various approaches useful or not useful for allowing us to make better sense of existing employment relationships?”

Define – Requires an answer that explains the precise meaning of a concept. A definition answer will include definition structure, and one that is likely expanded.

  • What does the concept of ‘management roles’ mean to our managers?”

Describe – Requires an answer that explains what something is like or how it works:

  • “Will you enlighten me about the criteria used for determining the company’s expenditure policy?”

Discuss – Requires an answer that explains an item or concept and offers details about the topic or issue with supportive information or examples, and can point for and/or against something, where explanations for the facts are brought to the forefront. It is important to give both sides of an argument and come to a conclusion:

  • “Will you help me understand the main requirements of the law in respect to employer-employee relationships?”

Evaluate/Assess – Requires an answer that decides and explains how valuable or important something is. The judgment should be backed by a discussion of the evidence or reasoning involved:

  • How would you factor the contribution of our customer service policy into this situation?”

Explain – Requires an answer that offers a rather detailed and exact explanation of an idea or principle, or a set of reasons for a situation or attitude:

  • “What exactly is the concept of management roles?”

Explore – Requires an answer that thoroughly examines the subject or topic and considers it from a variety of viewpoints:

  • “Will you tell me more about the economies and diseconomies of our company’s various profit centers?”

Expound – Requires an answer that explains what something means and renders points clear and coherent:

  • “What deductions can be made after studying the graph exhibited in element C?”

Illustrate – Requires an answer that consists primarily of examples to demonstrate or prove the subject, topic or inference within the question. It is often added to another response or question:

  • “To what extent does the public participate in the research and development process?”

Justify – Requires an answer that gives only the reasons for a particular position or argument. The issue to be argued may be a negative one as well as positive:

  • “What factors determine client and customer demands?”

Prove/Disprove – Both of these require answers that demonstrate the logical arguments and/or evidence connected with an idea or proposition. Proving requires “pro” points; disproving “contra” points:

  • “Will you give me a verbal description as to the functional importance of the IT department in its current operational capacity?”

State – Requires an answer that briefly and clearly expresses relevant points without lengthy discussion of minor details:

  • “Our company is often at a disadvantage when dealing with industry at a technical level. What do you think we can do about it?”

Summarize/Outline – Requires an answer that contains only the main points of the information available on a topic, issue or subject. Questions of this type often require short answers:

  • “Will you support your answer through detailing a typical profile of where it applies and how?”

To What Extent Is This True? – Requires an answer that discusses and explains the ways in which something is true and untrue:

  • “Could you please disclose some of the ramifications of employee behavior in situations involving authority?”

Trace – Requires a statement and brief description in logical or chronological order of the stages or steps in the development of a theory, concept, process, etc.:

  • Will you detail examples of the use of positive and negative behaviors in workplace situations and some of their recent applications, hindrances and limitations?”

Excerpt: Comprehensive Questioning: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 19.95 USD

Related:

Seven Components of Critical Thinking

Leaders Need to Focus on Questions Rather Than Offering Answers

Seven Styles of Questioning That Sharpen Critical Thinking Skills

Correctly Framing Problems Pinpoints the Right Solution

For Additional Information the Author Recommends the Following Books:

Effective Questioning in the Workplace: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Developing Critical Thinking Skills: The Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series

Effective Questioning Techniques: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

The Use and Application of Advanced Questioning: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Leaders Need to Focus on Questions Rather Than Offering Answers

with 5 comments

questionsdiscussions

The tactical approach to questioning is a highly disciplined process. The questioner must take on the role of acting as “an inner critical voice,” which expands another’s mind to skillfully develop deeper critical thinking abilities.

Questioning for thought provoking insight and understanding, and for inducing more in-depth thinking in another individual requires a tactical approach. For instance, verbal contributions that come from employees when they are questioned can be compared to an array of numerous thoughts that simultaneously flow from one’s mind. Yet, all of the thoughts must be dealt with, weighed, and carefully analyzed in an unbiased and fair manner.

If leaders or managers follow up on all of the answers initially given by employees with further questions that work to advance the discussion, employees are forced to think in a disciplined, intellectually responsible manner. At the same time the questioning process continually aids their own personal agenda to gain more insight and knowledge through posing selective, yet effective facilitating discussion lead-ins.

The oldest and still most powerful tool for instilling critical thinking and mental self-evaluation, is questioning. In order to glean and gather as much usable information as possible, and to change individual perceptions about something, leaders and managers must remain focused on interjecting questions to employees, rather than offering answers.

It is important to practice and model the inquiry process, by continually probing employees on topics, subject-related contexts or mental thinking patterns through the use of very specific questions. The abilities individuals gain by becoming involved in the process and by focusing on the elements of reasoning in a disciplined and self-assessing way tend to enhance employees’ sensitivity to others’ points of view, problem solving and decision making skills. A solid questioning process also helps provide a more balanced mental structure and framework to use in the future, which results from generating and incorporating logical mental relationships that tend to enhance more disciplined thought.

There are three basic ways to instill changes and alterations in employees’ thinking: questioning them for viewpoints and perspectives, questioning them for implications and consequences, and questioning them about the question being asked.

Questioning for Viewpoints and Perspectives

As the discussion and questioning leader, it is important encourage employees to slow their thinking down in order to elaborate upon their responses. Employees must be given the opportunity to develop and test their ideas, standpoints and opinions. Leaders must take employee responses seriously and determine to what extent and in what way the information or assertion is true, or if it makes sense. In order to do this, they need to wonder aloud what the employee is saying and thinking, what the person means, the response’s significance, its relationship to other beliefs, and how what is being said can be tested for its reliability.

Most arguments employees give are from a particular, yet structured point of view. As part of the “questioning for viewpoints and perspectives” process, it is essential to attack the argument from a tactical position. It is often necessary to demonstrate that there may be other, equally valid, viewpoints. Some examples of specific questions that are able to generate alternative viewpoints include:

  • What else could be accomplished by doing ____?
  • If we don’t have access to ____ or can’t use ____, what do you think should be done?
  • What are the positives and negatives of ____?
  • How do you think ____ and ____ are alike?
  • Another way to think about this is ____, do you agree?

Implications and Consequences Questions

The argument that employees often give may have logical implications, which can be forecasted. From an “implications and consequence questioning” position, employees should have their arguments challenged. The process requires them to think about if their argument or stance makes sense from a logical standpoint, and if what they say, is desirable and meaningful. Some examples of argument challenging questions include:

  • What are you implying by saying that?
  • What else does this remind you of?
  • How does this information fit into the things we have already learned?
  • What implications does ____ have on this?
  • Why is this necessary to know?
  • What do you think would happen next?
  • What is an alternative to this?
  • If what you said happened, what else could happen as a result? Why?

Questions About the Question

Questions about the question tend to be more reflective. Their purpose is to turn an argument, statement or question back onto itself. In other words, leaders can use questions like the ones below to bounce the ball back onto the employees’ personal argument, position or stance:

  • How can we find out more about what you are saying (or asking)?
  • What assumptions does this question imply?
  • Why do you feel this question is important?
  • To answer this particular question, what questions would have to be answered first?
  • Does this certain question ask us to evaluate something in particular?
  • What is the point of asking about ____?
  • Why do you think the question you asked is important for (me, us) to consider?
  • Why did you phrase this particular question in the way that you did?
  • Does this question fit into the context of our discussion?
  • What does this particular (question, stance, position or opinion) imply?
  • Is it possible to break this question down at all into one or two other ones?
  • Do you think this question is an easy or hard one to answer? Why?
  • Does this question seem clear to you?

Excerpt: Effective Questioning Techniques: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 19.95 USD

Related:

Why Is The Person Asking The Question In The First Place?

Making the Questions as Important as the Answers

Correctly Framing Problems Pinpoints the Right Solution

For Additional Information the Author Recommends the Following Books:

The Use and Application of Advanced Questioning: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Effective Questioning in the Workplace: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Developing Critical Thinking Skills: The Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series

Comprehensive Questioning: The Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Use Questions to Build Rather Than to Devastate or Demolish

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The purpose of good questioning is to support the development of honest and valid relationships and positive feelings of optimism and unity between leaders and employees. It is inevitable that some questions will lead to discovering harsh realities and discouragement.

As leaders instruct and allow their employees to question, they must train them to use what they learn to “build” rather than to “devastate or demolish.” As employees learn to question, it is important to make it clear that their ability to create a positive contribution and impact is recognized.

Questions can be asked in a positive or negative way: “Is the cup half full? Or is it half empty?” As such, the tones of individual questions are able to dramatically influence their response. Optimistically phrased questions invite collaboration as well as open, extensive or expansive answers. While negatively phrased questions tend to cause concern and often result in inadequate information gleaning and gathering. Looking forward with a positive strength of mind, or spirit, results in generating constructive questions that propel the questioner toward identifying and attaining optimal solutions

Optimism is typically based on the belief that things will work out for the best. Many times throughout the question and answer process there is insufficient information to make even an educated guess about an outcome. However, thinking critically and positively in the best manner possible pays off.

Thinking, in the best way possible, is not simplistic or idealistic. It is being prepared for the worst but believing the best will happen. To avoid being ill equipped for facing or acknowledging the unpleasant, the key question to keep in mind is, “What is the worst that could (or will) happen?” Responding to this question provokes preparation while supporting the forward momentum of positive thinking.

Provide a Safe Psychological Questioning Environment for Optimism to Flourish

Just as the workplace needs to provide a safe physical environment to protect their employees, leaders need to provide them a safe psychological environment to nurture their growth. One way is to encourage them to develop a “benefit of the doubt” attitude. This attitude allows everyone to step back and consider other explanations when numerous questions and answers might otherwise lead to a negative conclusion.

Leaders have an important role to play in establishing the positive strength of mind or “spirit” that works to carry employees through tough times and disillusioning moments. An optimistic view of situations, events, issues and circumstances is essential, especially in times of uncertainty and rapid change.

Of course, how each employee chooses to establish his or her sense of optimism or belief is a matter of individual conscience or persuasion. But, every employee within the workplace does deserve an opportunity to question, and to grow and develop by adhering to a personal set of ethical, honorable, and just set of principles. This is what will guard against the advancement and growth of cynicism.

Encourage Optimism and the Benefit of the Doubt

As with most powerful tools, questions can be used to construct potent organizations, or destroy workplaces. Leaders can help shape employee questioning skills toward building a positive workplace by teaching them to consider looking at things through a “cup that is half full, rather than half empty.”

Questioning is at the heart of critical and creative thinking, yet many leaders provide too few opportunities for employees to ask or investigate things through questions that flow out of their own natural sense of interest, concern and curiosity. When leaders begin to encourage more questioning within the workplace, without putting up a wall of resistance or expectations, they can establish a solid foundation for relationship building, comradery and synergy throughout the workplace. These questioning skills can become the basis for successful personal development and adjustment in a rapidly changing, uncertain work environment.

To Generate Higher Levels of Optimism Guard Against Excessive Routine and Simplistic Questioning

Any system that cannot tolerate change is open to destruction. As such, questions about “how,” “why,” and “what if” can be mentally stimulating and valuable, since they tend to introduce just enough change into stable routines to make them interesting.

The constant flow of good and insightful questions tends to keep routines and optimism alive, and employees flexible. As part of the process the leader must admit they do not have all the answers in order to keep the investigative process robust, optimistic and alive. Instead of allowing a good question to go by the wayside, bring the creative process into focus by saying something like: “Let’s think about how we might answer that one.” or, “That’s a great question!” Most importantly, the leader must bring their own way of asking and answering questions out in the open so employees can see how their mind works.

Related:

Correctly Framing Problems Pinpoints the Right Solution

Building Critical Thinking Skills to Enhance Employee Comprehension and Decision Making

Communication Must Be Personalized To Be Effective

Excerpt: Effective Questioning in the Workplace: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 19.95 USD

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

February 1, 2013 at 11:27 am

Why Is The Person Asking The Question In The First Place?

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What is your typical response when asked a challenging question?

  • A blank panicked stare followed by a profusion of sweat.
  • Whoa, that came out of left field.
  • I haven’t learned that yet.
  • I didn’t expect you to ask that.
  • Shall I make a few tries at it before admitting that I don’t know the answer?

All of the above responses tend to be real replies often given by employees during a serious or challenging question and answer process or session. Most know that it isn’t the best way to respond, but failed to know what else to say. To be considered fluent and knowledgeable, it is essential to avoid these responses.

However, before responding to a question always consider a response from the questioner’s perspective. In other words: Why is the person asking the question(s) in the first place?

In order to answer questions appropriately and effectively think about asking yourself these questions:

  1. What is the individual looking for?
  2. What past challenges might this person have had in the organization or with previous employees?
  3. What qualities, skills and experiences can you infer are important to the questioner from the question(s) asked?
  4. Are the topics or concerns being questioned about in his or her field of expertise, or out of it?
  5. Who is asking the question? The owner, manager or a peer or colleague?

Related: Not All Questions Are Created Equally

What to Avoid When Answering Questions

When answering questions try not to provide a superficial response to any question. This makes the questioning process muddied, as it slows the progress of getting to the issue at hand, as well as at the heart of the question. Avoid offering a broad or general response because an opportunity will be missed to demonstrate understanding about the topic’s concerns, ramifications and issues. Avoid not answering the question, or skirting around it as it implies to the questioner they are not being listened to and they will become frustrated, and will start to tune out the response to the question. Don’t give generic answers, which implies not mirroring the questioner’s words in the response. If the specifics in the answer are not addressed, the questioner will likely be left with the impression that the responder didn’t listen well, didn’t understand the question, or really didn’t care about the seriousness of the question itself. None of these responses leaves a positive impression on the questioner.

Listen Carefully to What the Question Implies, States and Asks

Listening carefully ensures the question was completely understood and can then be answered effectively, or shows if the question is not as clear and concise as it should be. Listening well is an art that involves good eye contact, body language, and other nonverbal cues. It is essential to pay attention to both what is being said and asked and the manner in which it is delivered. As it may well provide valuable tips to formulate effective responses to the question.

Don’t Interrupt the Questioner

Interrupting someone is not just discourteous, but unprofessional. Not intentionally interrupting the questioner demonstrates the strength of one’s listening skills and ability to respond to the questioner’s inquires and to follow directions. If necessary, it is more effective to clarify the question or at the end, simply ask, “Was the question answered clearly enough?’

Provide a Complete and Precise Response

Take the time to formulate a response and remember that a moment of silence to collect one’s thoughts is always acceptable. Begin the answer with a strong, positive opener including key critical points. Be concise, direct and confident while still providing an adequate amount of detail. When answering a question that has multiple components, section it off to ensure that each point was addressed. For example, you might say, “First, I would ____ then I think I would ____.” After completely responding to one or more complex questions, provide a concise summary as to the whole of the topic or issue presented.

There are certain things to avoid when providing a response, such as: rushing through a response, providing only a superficial answer, trailing off at the end of a question, or not responding to prompts or signals that the questioner wants to hear more.

Related: The Importance of Intellectual Honesty

Prove Experience with Examples and Factual Statements

Share some personal experiences while responding which helps convince the questioner that you have the skills or the ability to transfer your knowledge and reasoning into new avenues of applications, perceptions and thinking.

However, make sure not to: reference the example(s) given, repeatedly use the same example during the question and answer process, choose a poor or inappropriate example, or use a good example, but provide it at the wrong time.

Ensure That Explanations Are Optimized

Most likely it will be impossible to give all the answers the questioner desires. Because of this, it is important to convince the individual that you do have: the potential to find out more about the topic being questioned, the ability to transfer knowledge from one situation to another, and the desire to learn quickly and efficiently.

When providing an explanation do not create a link in experience and events from the past to the present and future or miss the opportunity to build confidence based on personal past experiences.

Volunteer More Information than Is Expected

Volunteer information that might not otherwise be asked about. If you have a particular accomplishment that qualifies within a response and it hasn’t come up in the questioning process, make sure to work it in. Modesty and humility are fine personal traits to have, but certain responses can also be used to “sell yourself,” which at times can be extremely beneficial and useful.

In response to a question don’t leave it up to the questioner to “fish” for information in order to get it or miss the opportunity to share unique details that might make you stand out from other employees or individuals.

Demonstrate Your Level of Knowledge

Within responses, bring in points that support your level of knowledge about what is going on within the organization, department and workplace. Take the opportunity during responses to share what you have gained, your knowledge of the industry, and especially your interest in the company. Express your interest verbally through the words you choose as well as in your actions throughout the question and answer process. If you don’t find opportunities to work in certain points of knowledge and interest during the ongoing question and answer process, address it at the end when you are given the opportunity to say something, (which is usually when you are asked if you have any more questions).

When responding to a question, make sure not to let your nervousness and response performance override your interest and enthusiasm during the questioning process or miss opportunities to share your understandings and viewpoints.

Related: Attention to Minor Details Averts Major Problems

Respond Positively to Questions

It is important to frame your responses positively. This can be challenging when asked a question that you do not have an answer for, or when asked about experiences that you don’t yet have. A person can prepare him or herself in advance by anticipating these types of questions, and learning techniques to respond positively.

Excerpt: Effective Questioning Techniques: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 19.95 USD

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

October 2, 2012 at 11:28 am

Making the Questions as Important as the Answers

with 3 comments

Within the workplace leaders need to emphasize the importance of questioning, and can do this by welcoming all those “why” and “how” questions, and asking a lot of them as well.

Leaders need to be content with leaving many questions unanswered, and by doing so, create a collection of unknown working elements that offer evidence to the prominent place that curiosity holds within the organization.

Leaders can use questions and answers to make the employees’ work life and environment curious and exciting. To do this, questions should mirror employees’ sense of adventure, interest and curiosity. Observing and questioning their world of work helps to establish an outstanding and superb sense of teamwork.

To make questions as important as answers it is necessary to safeguard employees against excessive organizational routines. Routine, rigidity and tight boundaries tend to snuff out the questioning process before it begins to achieve any glimmer of light, hope or momentum.

Organizational cultures often contribute to the problem of attaining positive workplace growth and development when they tend to allow, incorporate, or spread, a bland veneer of “sameness” or a status quo of “apathy” throughout the working environment and workplace landscape. This trend presents a special challenge.

Related: Correctly Framing Problems Pinpoints the Right Solution

Faced with a bland, dominated working landscape, it is up to leaders to find ways to liberate their employees from the continuous shaping of ideas, opinions and the peer pressure of “sameness.” Employees can be freed from these organizational culture constraints by becoming good questioners. When employees are surrounded by leaders and supervisors who provide immediate, simplistic responses to all the questions they ask, a false impression is created that emphasizes: “Answers do not require serious thought or ingenuity.” Employees are prevented from observing firsthand just how initial questions spawn additional ones, which eventually lead to fresh answers. As a result, they tend to lose out on the opportunity to experience mind searching, analyzing and decision-making.

Related: Seven Styles of Questioning That Sharpen Critical Thinking Skills

Look at Questions and Answers as Part of an Uncompleted Puzzle

Working environments tend to present an endless supply of puzzles. The only problem is, many employees spend most of their time and lives avoiding puzzles and serious questions. Yet, if every question has a quick and easy answer, the purpose of inquiry is lost.

Puzzles within the mind tend to arouse a sense of curiosity and stimulate questioning. While some employees may be bewildered when at first attempting to figure something out, good questions will start to break up their mental log jam and begin to unlock everyone’s frozen thinking, while at the same time, setting them on the path to greater understanding.

Puzzle avoidance leads to stagnation. A healthy organization keeps its employees’ heads out of the sand and tries to see what is coming in order to be prepared. A healthy group of employees learns to wrestle with difficult questions and predicaments rather than rely upon recipes and formulas, which may have worked in the past.

If leaders provide a continuous menu of workplace puzzles to decipher, employees will develop at a faster pace, feeling confident and resourceful in the process. Ingenuity and skill will grow faster. Confronted by a problem, quandary or an impossible situation, employees will less likely be shaken or fearful. Over time, they will actually begin to greet dilemmas as a “challenge and a test of ingenuity.” However, at certain times it is important for leaders to make it a point to answer some questions, especially more complex or wide open ones, with an admission of ignorance or uncertainty.

There is no such thing as a “right question” or “truly perfect sequence” to search out answers since effective questioning tends to require a certain amount of “mind mining” and “muddling around.” Tough questions are intended to invoke some trial-and-error reasoning engagement and outcomes. Dilemmas, paradoxes and perplexities all deserve and require some “messy questioning” that is balanced by a degree of disciplined, logical inquiry. Thinkers who are able to “shift gears” from the right to left side of the brain, and back and forth between logic and license, will typically generate deeper and more workable insights.

Related: Building Critical Thinking Skills to Enhance Employee Comprehension and Decision Making

Maintain a Focus on the Importance of Questioning

One of the goals leaders should have is to teach their employees how to find or fashion satisfying answers to work-related puzzles by learning to ask good questions in effective sequences and combinations. As part of their human nature, most employees will tend to seek stability, predictability and certainty in an uncertain world, instead of embracing the challenges associated with it.

Instead of learning to use good questions to adapt and adjust to a changing world, they more often than not, adopt a “foxhole” mentality. Unfortunately, without experience in the realm of unanswerable questions, employees will not be prepared to deal with the riddles of work and life.

As a second goal, it is up to leaders to share a sense of wonderment at the vastness of “what is unknown.” In this regard, questions will often end up becoming a collection of segmented pieces and bits of inquiry whose answers are as confusing as individual puzzle pieces that have no frame or outline to place them into.

The question is: How can employees be motivated to relish the challenge to find complex or difficult answers and solutions? Will they be able to deal with ambiguity? When leaders treasure and value the “mysterious and unknowable,” and extensively question things themselves, always seeking answers (even if certain solutions remain abstract, unreliable or unattainable), their employees will tend to become more prepared to deal with the puzzles of everyday situations, events, issues, as well as unforeseeable future occurrences.

Excerpt: Effective Questioning in the Workplace: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 19.95 USD

If you are seeking proven expertise and best practices on developing effective questioning skills in the workplace to train or educate your employees to solve problems and improve their performance in this area, refer to Effective Questioning in the Workplace: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series. Click here to learn more.

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreward Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Blog | Catalog | 800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

August 7, 2012 at 10:48 am

Building Critical Thinking Skills to Enhance Employee Comprehension and Decision Making

with 5 comments

In employee led groups or in an individual context, individuals can begin to take over the responsibility of using questions to help foster a deeper understanding of material, information, key concepts or issues.

Through the use of questioning, employees engage in a social process that is fundamental to learning. Individual learning and self-development begin on the social plane, through interactions where employees think and respond with others who possess varied levels of knowledge. Employees should take an active role in exploring, finding and researching answers to their own questions.

Through self-inquiry based questioning, individuals develop questions that need to be answered and then research the answers to support their thinking and responses. Inquiry is not always a specific question, but can be simply a contemplation about something that needs to be investigated further. There is usually not one correct answer to meaningful questions of inquiry, but through the process, employees actually gain understanding, generate more questions to ponder, and find further issues to research. This technique helps provide a structure for looking through information and sorting out relevant from irrelevant facts, sources and data.

Within the process, it is important to eliminate incorrect information, confirm reliable information, and ask further questions about the meanings and implications of certain words and phrases. After the discussion, they review and confirm the accuracy of summarizations and understandings.

Questions have the ability to buttress comprehension. Their intended use is to make the sharing of new information a collaborative process, with shared responsibilities for ongoing discussions and conversations as well as problem solving outcomes.

Within the questioning process, it is essential for employees to invite questions that effectively probe for understanding. One effective method is to apply “why” types of questions that tend to redirect an individual’s attention. An example is, “Why are you sure that when you say ____ will happen, it will?” It is also important for employees to ask questions that model comprehension monitoring, “Does (this) or (that) make any sense to you?”

POSSE Questioning

POSSE questioning is an effective framework to guide employees to facilitate better comprehension, particularly when solving problems. POSSE stands for:

  • Predict (predict what will happen as a result of the problem);
  • Organize (organize knowledge and ideas into categories and details);
  • Search (read to identify key ideas and details of problem-related parts);
  • Summarize (identifying the main problem rather than its symptoms);
  • Evaluate (ask a question, compare, clarify and predict).

Within the POSSE framework, questioning tends to be embedded in the Predicting, Searching, and Evaluating stages of problem solving and is structured in a “Shared Inquiry Discussion” format that is designed to promote creative, thoughtful and critical thinking. As such, the leader continues to play a key role in the inquiry process. Within this framework, however, he or she avoids asking employees’ questions that tend to cause them to speculate about something that is outside immediate, contextual boundaries. He or she also avoids questions that tend to require making predictions about something.

Applying the POSSE Framework to Make Questioning Visible

How can employees become proficient in using questions effectively in their own problem solving/work-related situations? There are two major challenges associated with this question. First, while widely existing in any workplace, questions are so common that employees tend to simply take the process for granted, rather than analyzing how the process of questioning works. Which is, how questions are formed, the purposes they serve and the information sources they probe. Second, even when the questioning process is discussed and detailed to make it “visible,” employees still need opportunities to engage in active questioning practices themselves. The goal of the questioning process should be to increase and enhance proficiency in seeking out information and to generate higher levels of insight and understanding.

There are specific ways in which to practice the skill of questioning for reaching this goal:

Think Aloud Sessions

A “Think Aloud Session” is one way to make a relatively common or invisible process like questioning to identify important information more visible by allowing employees to share insights, reasoning and perceptions through the art of inquiry and the language of questioning to generate positive results. When a leader applies Think Aloud Sessions, they should model or demonstrate “Questioning Use Strategies,” and the vocabulary of “Question-Answer Relationships” (see below).

Creating Question-Answer Relationships (QAR)

A Question-Answer Relationship is an effective questioning strategy, which emphasizes that a relationship exists between certain questions asked, the material presented, and the background of the responders. In this strategy, employees need to rely on four question/answer relationships or descriptors to find the information they need in order to effectively answer the question(s) being asked.

Question-Answer Relationships help employees and the leader develop a shared, common language for discussing and understanding how particular questions are designed to function. The leader may need to introduce QAR and to explain the four types of question/answer relationships that it encompasses:

Consider and Explore – The answer exists, but employees need to put together different pieces of information to obtain it. This is the most common QAR.

Right Here – The answer resides within the question and is usually easy to comprehend. The information is found without much effort.

Question Asker and Me – The answer is not explicitly stated. Employees need to think about what they already know, what the leader tells them, and how both pieces of information fit together in a meaningful way.

On Your Own – The answer is not physically given or implied. Employees should be able to answer the question without reading or researching information, simply by using their own experiences and background knowledge.

QAR Brings Together Knowledge and Information

This is information and knowledge that employees need to draw upon in order to answer particular questions, through various inquiry strategies. For example, a question asked could require a response that is part of the respondent’s background knowledge, or an “In My Head” response. In contrast, another particular question may require a response that needs to be obtained from past readings about something in particular.

Asking a question such as, “Have you ever been surprised when our production line shuts down?” cannot simply be addressed with information from reading something, even if what was read about tends to describe a situation like the one being asked. Further, a question like, “What might we do if and when the production line breaks down?” requires both an understanding of the dilemma and the ability to draw on one’s own background to solve the problem in a new way. To gain a better understanding for how the QAR relationship works, and why it is important, the process should be focused on question asking and answering within workplace contexts and their activities.

Excerpt: Effective Questioning in the Workplace: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press) $ 19.95 USD

If you would like to learn more about teaching and transferring effective questioning techniques in the workplace, refer to Effective Questioning in the Workplace: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series . This training skill-pack features eight key interrelated concepts, each with their own discussion points and training activity. It is ideal as an informal training tool for coaching or personal development. It can also be used as a handbook and guide for group training discussions. Click here to learn more.
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Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreward Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

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