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Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

Posts Tagged ‘critical thinking

Seven Components of Critical Thinking

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Critical thinking is a powerful process if understood and applied effectively. When developing critical thinking skills, it is important to understand more about the activity and process that comprises it. Once understood, fears about actively applying critical thinking skills will likely dissipate. Critical thinking is able to translate the thinking process into clear, persuasive, truthful language, which is carefully and logically crafted. At the same time it is able to convert perceptions and reactions into concepts, ideas, assumptions, suppositions, inferences, hypotheses, questions, beliefs, premises and logical arguments.

There are many misconceptions about critical thinking that tend to hinder individuals from continually working to develop it. Unfortunately many assume the process is too difficult and remain unenlightened as to how the process can help them not only in their work environments, but in their own personal lives as well.

Four roadblocks often create negative feelings about getting more involved in the critical thinking process:

  • It is more of a negative process, since it tends to tear down ideas and inserts nothing in their place. In actuality, it is a positive process that is able to put things in a more realistic perspective.
  • It will lead to the inability to make commitments to people or ideas. In actuality, commitments become informed ones.
  • It seems to involve traumatic change since one is expected to continually abandon old assumptions. In actuality, some beliefs stay the same individuals simply become more informed.
  • It is detached, unemotional and cold. In actuality, it is highly poignant and liberating, since individuals tend to be free of their past assumptions and the anxiety of self-scrutiny.

Critical Thinking Encompasses Specific Elements

Every process or method is made of essential components, and critical thinking is no different. These components provide a structure to the process, which if incorporated, makes persuasive, truthful and supportive verbal communication possible to highly influence others’ points of view and message acceptance. The major components in critical thinking include: perception, assumptions, emotion, language, argument, fallacy, logic, and problem solving.

Perception

Perception is considered to be the manner in which individuals receive, interpret and translate experiences. How individuals perceive things works to define how they think. Perception tends to provide individuals a significant filtering system.

Assumptions

Assumptions are central to critical thinking. They tend to be implied, where individuals are not always conscious of them. Assumptions are not always bad and often rest on the notion that some ideas are obvious. They tend to make individuals comfortable with their present beliefs, shutting out any alternatives.

Emotion

Trying to leave emotion out of almost anything is impossible as it is part of everything people do and think. Emotions are the number one cause of creating and putting into place thinking and operating barriers, which are continually used as a defense mechanism. Critical thinkers do not ignore or deny emotions but learn to accept and manage them.

Language

Thinking can’t be separated from language since both tend to have three primary purposes: to inform, persuade and explain. Language denotes (designates meanings) and connotes (implies or suggests something), and relies heavily on the use of metaphors. Metaphors are powerful language tools, which are able to influence how individuals think and problem solve. These figures of speech give great color and depth to one’s language. Metaphors can be short phrases, stories, or even poetic renditions and is a verbal message that listeners can easily interpret and visualize.

Argument

An argument is a claim, which is used to persuade that something is (or is not) true, or should (or should not) be done. An argument contains three basic elements: an issue, one or more reasons or premises, and one or more conclusions. An argument can be either valid or invalid based on its structure and only premises & conclusions are reached, which are either true or false.

The goal of critical thinking is to implement a sound argument, which has both a valid or proper structure and contains true premises. This is where using logic makes all the difference.

Fallacy

Reasoning that doesn’t meet the criteria for being a sound argument is considered erroneous, or fallacious. A fallacy comes from incorrect patterns of reasoning. However, it does not always mean that the conclusion is false, but it does underscore the fact that the reasoning used to support it is not: valid, based on true premises, or complete and does not include all necessary relevant information.

Logic

Logic incorporates two methods or types of reasoning: deductive and inductive. Deductive reasoning relies on facts, certainty, syllogisms, validity, truth of premises sound arguments and supported conclusions. Inductive reasoning relies on diverse facts, probability, generalizations, hypotheses, analogies and inductive strength.

Problem Solving Through Logic

A logic problem is like any problem. It requires:

  • Understanding the problem. In other words, listen, read & take heed.
  • Identifying all of the “unknowns” as well as the “knowns.”
  • Interpreting relationships between them (visual aids can help).
  • Generating a strategy from steps two and three.
  • Applying the strategy and solving the problem.
  • Repeating the process if it is necessary.

Excerpt: Developing Critical Thinking Skills: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 19.95 USD

Related:

The Six Phases of Critical Thinking

Decision-Making Begins When an Action Needs to Be Taken

Correctly Framing Problems Pinpoints the Right Solution

Leaders Need to Focus on Questions Rather Than Offering Answers

Six Critical Issues To Consider When Solving Problems

For Additional Information the Author Recommends the Following Books:

Conflict Resolution: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Series

Intelligent Decision Making: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series

Planning to Maximize Performance: 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

Six Steps to Educate Employees About Delegated Tasks and Assignments

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Leaders teach employees how to perform their delegated assignments and tasks in order to assure their timely and accurate completion. An effective method of educating employees both ensures complete understanding of assignments and addresses productive ways to complete them successfully.

When tasks are delegated, many leaders become frustrated by the inability of employees to complete assignments in a timely and competent manner. Leaders often feel completing assignments by themselves is easier and faster. This becomes an excuse and a barrier to delegating altogether. It also hampers the leader’s ability to grow and increase their productivity.

Leaders understand that when they begin to delegate tasks and assignments, time and patience are needed to educate their employees to perform competently.

Leaders regularly delegate assignments, but continue to see employees fall short of assignment completion and the expectations set for them. This is often the result of assignments or tasks being misunderstood, ignored, forgotten or viewed as overwhelming. These negative outcomes are generally attributed to improper or ineffective employee education.

Leaders know that in order to increase productivity and results, the first step is to properly educate their employees in how they want the task and assignment carried out and how specifically to do it. Employees must also be made aware of set time frames for accomplishing the work and the desired results the leader expects.

While employees may stumble initially, leaders understand that their proficiency will increase greatly with time and experience.

Use of the following six-step instructional method is a top priority for leaders because it eliminates unsuccessful assignment implementation and completion.

Review the Assignment

In order to effectively educate employees, leaders begin by previewing the overall assignment, task or responsibility. They look at all the components necessary to complete it effectively in a timely fashion and review their personal expectations in regard to it. Developing notes and reference points to use when meeting with individuals to be assigned is essential.

Explain Clearly and Carefully

One main responsibility in educating employees is to make instructions as clear and precise as possible. Leaders know that explaining clearly is a twofold process. They need to present their information in a way that is logical and free of confusion or ambiguity. The other side of clarity is how an employee perceives, interprets and responds to the instructions.

Leaders make it a point to use vocabulary that is on the employee’s level of understanding. Specific examples are used that relate directly to the tasks and expectations within the given assignment. Leaders carefully organize and sequence the components of each task to be assigned. They eliminate irrelevant or unrelated information and are logical and realistic in their expectations and requirements.

Apply ‘Think Time’

It is vital to explain in detail the work that needs to be done. Leaders need to both offer ideas or suggestions as to how best accomplish it and build in “think time” for employees to ponder and absorb what is being said. These are pauses inserted between major points of discussion, and include various essential components related to the task or the employee’s questions regarding the assignment.

There is a time difference between hearing and comprehending. People talk much faster than one can actually listen. This is why leaders make it a point to explain small portions of an overall assignment within a given time frame, affording the necessary space for employees to think through the instructions and various responsibilities that apply to all aspects of their assignment. Additional time is allowed to formulate questions and concerns so employees feel thoroughly prepared.

Assign Reference Materials and Individual Resource People

There may be times throughout the course of an assignment when an employee needs to use outside resources. Leaders cover these contingencies in their instructions.

Employees should be given the names of two or more people that can help them in problem situations. Reference materials should also be offered with detailed explanations of how they can be used and for what types of situations. Discussions and illustrations on how and where to find solutions to problems pertaining to their assignments need to be included in the instructional process.

Repeat and Readdress Directions and Specific Points

As total understanding is key to task achievement, leaders consistently repeat and readdress major points, issues and detailed components of assignments. This repetition focuses the employee’s attention on what is being said. Repeating and readdressing issues also helps leaders avoid inserting last-minute changes in their assignments and/or instructions. It is also a good way to survey the understanding levels of an employee. Leaders find many employees are ready to begin their assignments immediately after one good instructional period. Many will need little or no intervention and prodding afterward.

Self-Test for Assignment Understanding

Leaders encourage employees to test themselves in instructional areas that are not clear to them. The process includes being able to identify and openly state the main idea of the various components, steps, actions and responsibilities in their assignments. They should be able to recall exact directives of each separate phase of their assignment. Employees should be able to verbally detail what they need to do, when it needs to be done, and how best to accomplish it.

Ideas, concepts, methods or areas that remain unclear need to be revisited. Instructions should be given again in a learning style best suited to achieving total understanding. Leaders find that self-testing works effectively at the end of an instructional period to review and solidify the various details and processes within the given assignments.

Excerpt: Delegation: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 18.95 USD

Related:

Five Critical Steps to Maximize Performance

Execution: Six Action Steps

Performance Plans Create Results and Maximizes Performance

Objectives Allow Managers to Focus on Obtaining Results

For Additional Information the Author Recommends the Following Books:

Performance Management: The Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series

Planning to Maximize Performance: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Maximizing Financial Performance: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Improving Workplace Interaction: 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

A Leader’s Four Key Responsibilities

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A leader’s specific roles are determined through the four basic leadership responsibilities of directing, coaching, supporting and delegating. Specific responsibilities will fall into one of these four categories. In leadership practice, one must master skills in all areas in order to effectively lead others under their direction.

Effective leadership is not happenstance; it follows specific rules revolving around these four basic areas of responsibility.

Leadership skills can be learned and developed, even if an individual does not have a natural tendency toward leadership. More importantly, once learned and applied, these rules make a leader more effective and productive as he or she learns to work, direct and guide others toward the mutual accomplishment of goals and objectives.

Developing strengths in each of the four leadership roles allows a leader to read specific situations accurately and know what communication style is best applied.

Directing

Directing refers to how to keep work tasks and activities on the right track. A leader’s direction is what makes or breaks problem solving as well as determines the effectiveness of an approach to an assignment or task, the maintaining of momentum until its completion, and whether it is done by deadline. There are several ways to generate good direction techniques. These include:

Explain things completely and include the ‘why’s.

Leaders learn early on that the best way to gain support and trust from their employees is to explain all things in their entirety. Once people understand why something is important or necessary, they generally rally to the call of that which needs to be done or addressed.

Remain visible.

Leaders understand the power of their presence at all times. Nothing deflates the workforce’s motivation and desire to achieve more than to be left on their own with no visible means of support or direction.

Objectively consider opposing points of view.

Leaders consider situations, problems and solutions from various viewpoints, as the input from as many individuals as possible expands their capabilities to effectively frame their direction.

Coaching

Coaching refers to when a leader knows where he or she wants to go and remains in control of the task but needs to lead others in developing a mutual support network. Coaching instills the desire to achieve and builds a dialogue bridge between the leader and those under his or her charge. This motivates employees and positively changes attitudes toward the work assignment. To do this effectively a leader must make an effort to:

Incorporate the word ‘we’ into all conversations.

Effective leaders eliminate the word “I” because it denotes a singular rather than cooperative effort. The very meaning of the term “coaching” implies a team effort.

Listen for objections and areas of misunderstanding.

Effective leaders who coach well develop the skill of eliminating objections by developing an effective dialogue and creating clear and concise responses.

Offer explanations addressing the ‘why’s, what’s and how’s’ of the problem or task at hand.

Good coaching depends upon complete understanding. Motivation and confidence comes from understanding the expectations a leader has of those involved in a given task, assignment or problem solving situation.

Supporting

Managers cannot be effective leaders unless they actively hone their supporting skills. People look warmly on leaders who actively work to support them emotionally as well as physically. When leaders actively work to support the people under their charge they:

Acknowledge individual efforts with comments of praise and positive support.

Leaders are not afraid to say “thank you,” or “you’re doing a great job,” or whatever it takes to instill confidence in an individual.

Disclose their own feelings openly and honestly.

Leaders are not afraid to reveal their “inner self.” Trust and loyalty are built on disclosing inward feelings, concerns and desires. Readily and honestly opening up builds encouragement and perseverance on both sides.

Never hesitate to ask, ‘What’s wrong?’

Leaders allow themselves to get into the thick of a situation or task, and are quick to share the decision making responsibility, but know when to relinquish control in order to gain extra participation and involvement.

Delegating

Leaders know and understand their people. They know their strengths and weaknesses as well as what motivates and frustrates them. Effective delegating relies on the ability to select the proper person for the specific task or role. Leaders develop good delegation skills by:

Briefing the delegate.

Leaders leave nothing to chance when they delegate. When delegating, it is vital to explain exactly what expectations the leader has of the delegated individual.

Having confidence in the person they select.

Leaders do not select individuals for an assignment according to their job descriptions or the salaries they command, they look for people with the skills, abilities, perseverance and motivation to get the job done and done well.

Not abdicating responsibility, but allowing individuals to decide a best course of action for themselves.

Leaders monitor and weigh these individual decisions, but never advance their own leadership position for a particular course of action unless they assess it to be the best one.

Excerpt: Leadership Roles & Responsibilities: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 16.95 USD

Related:

Five Critical Steps to Maximize Performance

Execution: Six Action Steps

Performance Plans Create Results and Maximizes Performance

Objectives Allow Managers to Focus on Obtaining Results

For Additional Information the Author Recommends the Following Books:

Performance Management: The Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series

Planning to Maximize Performance: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Maximizing Financial Performance: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Improving Workplace Interaction: 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

Seven Styles of Questioning That Sharpen Critical Thinking Skills

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Informational gathering processes are designed to assist leaders in asking questions that facilitate the thinking skills of observation and recall. Both observation and recall thinking skills are foundational to the collection and retention of specific facts.

When questioning to promote creative and critical thinking, it is important to use employees’ responses to guide subsequent questions within discussions and dialogues. Make sure to use predetermined formulated questions for dictating, channeling or directing employee responses.

Clues for posing appropriate and effective processing and probing questions are to be found in the responses given to the core questions that were asked. Because of this, leaders have to be adept listeners in order to ask appropriate processing questions that bring about quality responses.

There are seven different types of processing questions that can be used to generate higher levels of thinking. It is important to understand where and when to use each:

Refocusing Questions

Refocus questions are needed if employees are not doing enough in-depth thinking, or if are talking off the subject. To refocus employee responses, leaders may need to reacquaint them with what was said, and then restate the core question. It is important to provide specific examples when refocusing employees back onto a particular subject, idea or concept.

Clarifying Questions

Clarification is needed if responses are unclear, or if the leader feels that more appropriate language could be used to express the responder’s comment, opinion or idea. Applying clarifying questions is an excellent way to build vocabulary. Appropriate clarification questions help employees define words and bring meaning to their ideas. Most miscommunication and misunderstanding is caused by not clarifying words, thoughts, concepts or ideas accurately and appropriately.

Verifying Questions

Verifying questions provide opportunities to cite or give evidence for ideas or specific information. Responses tend to be based on personal experiences. When verifying information, it is important to state what authorities or experts say is true, and to use a principle or generalization to support the information.

Redirecting Questions

Redirecting questions are designed to enhance personal interactions. They should be asked as often as possible within topical discussions and investigative meetings, gatherings or sessions. Redirecting questions gain a variety of responses from different employees. Two ways to redirect thinking about something is to ask: “What is another (way…thing…idea) we can bring to light to discuss about this?” And, “Will someone else offer another idea or insight on this topic?”

Narrowing the Focus Questions

Narrow the focus questions are used to limit the content of what is discussed or talked about. They are based on the “content characteristics” or the concepts or ideas the leader plans to address, question and discuss.

Supporting Questions

Supporting questions should be asked in order to mentally link relationships between or among evidence and statements of inference, such as cause/effect and/or prediction. Supporting questions also provide opportunities to state reasons for groupings, labels, sequences and classifications.

Recall and Verification Questions

Verification is especially critical in recalling pieces of data, information or concepts. Verification is gathered both as part of the primary material covered, as well as outside of it, in the form of past experiences, authorities, principles and generalizations.

Verifying through experiences, authorities, principles and generalizations further extends an employee’s investigative skills by building additional evidence to support facts. When discussing specific facts of a particular concept or principle, the leader should ask several kinds of verifying questions so that employees become more enlightened by their understanding of the facts. For example, if an employee is asked the basic verification question, “How do you know ____?” and the employee responds, “Because I ____.” it is important to follow up with another verification question that asks, “Where did you find that information?”

Informational Gathering Processes

By providing employees the opportunity to practice observing and recalling, they will better understand the thinking skills and become more aware of the types of questions they need to ask themselves when encountering situations which call for gathering and retaining information. Situations that require the observing-thinking skill must be real and representational. While situations that require the recalling-thinking skill must include questions with words that cue recollection. This at first may seem unnecessary or unimportant, however, by using cueing words, the leader assists employees in understanding how they gathered the topical content.

It also enables employees to provide sound, verifiable evidence. For example, if a leader says: “Tell me about the work task you did yesterday,” employees can say how they felt about it, or talk about other tasks or assignments they liked. Further, by using the “cues” for recall, “What do you recall about your last assignment in terms of its importance?” the employee is more apt to speak directly to the details of the assignment and/or associated tasks.

Apply a Questioning Reflection Guide

There may come a time when a leader discovers that problems have surfaced when conducting a particular instructional session or meeting discussion with their employees. It may be a good policy (at least initially) to tape and transcribe at least a 5 or 10 minute interactive question and answer process. Then have another leader or peer critique the session and suggest ways to improve upon the question and answer process.

Specific things to listen for include the types of questions and sequence of questions that promote employee responses and thinking, and how to better utilize the responses. One other important thing to listen for is the pauses that occur during the “wait time” and the amount of time that passes between questions and responses.

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

Related:

Decision-Making Begins When an Action Needs to Be Taken

Correctly Framing Problems Pinpoints the Right Solution

Leaders Need to Focus on Questions Rather Than Offering Answers

Six Critical Issues To Consider When Solving Problems

For Additional Information the Author Recommends the Following Books:

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

Conflict Resolution: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Series

Intelligent Decision Making: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series

Planning to Maximize Performance: 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

The Six Phases of Critical Thinking

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Critical thinking can be defined as “learning to think better by improving one’s thinking skills.” Individuals who are critical thinkers use the thinking process to analyze (consider and reflect) and synthesize (piece together) what they have learned or are currently learning. Unfortunately, much of everyone’s thinking tends to be biased, imprecise, unclear, uninformed or prejudiced. Since this becomes severely limiting, critical thinking is needed to improve its quality and value.

Within the organizational setting critical thinking is necessary for: overcoming problems, making changes, modifications or adaptations within work structures, methods and problem solving situations, resolving situational conflict and pressing issues, and inventing and implementing new ideas, techniques and solutions.

Critical thinking development is a gradual process. It requires: mastering plateaus of learning as well as maintaining a serious focus on the process itself, changing personal habits of thought, which tends to be a long-range project, and extensive development time.

Within the process of critical thinking it is important to recognize what does not comprise its basic elements or components. Critical thinking is not accomplished by: saying something without carefully thinking it through, taking a guess at what one thinks “should” be done, memorizing material to analyze, discuss or examine, doing something just because it has always been done, believing something because it is what everyone else tends to believe, or arguing about something when there are no facts to back up the argument.

Critical Thinking Qualities

There are certain qualities critical thinkers possess and these characteristics tend to categorize individuals as “deep thinkers,” which separates them from more typical “basic thinkers.” Critical thinkers tend to be self-disciplined, self-directed, self-monitored and self-corrective thinkers. They raise essential or crucial questions and problems and then proceed to formulate them clearly and precisely. Critical thinkers gather, assemble, evaluate and appraise relevant information. They come to well-reasoned deductions, conclusions and solutions, while measuring and testing them against relevant standards and criteria. They also keep an open mind within alternative systems of thought while continually recognizing and assessing their assumptions and lines of reasoning. Finally, critical thinkers communicate effectively with others in seeking out and determining solutions for challenges and problems.

There tends to be six developmental thinking phases that lead to “mastering” the art of critical thinking. Through extensive practice and applications of the process, individuals can expect to begin altering and eventually changing their individual habits of thought. Each progressive phase is described below.

Phase One: The Unenlightened Thinker — individuals generally are not consciously aware that significant problems do exist within their current patterns of thinking.

Phase Two: The Confronted Thinker — individuals are aware that existing problems are evident or apparent within their process of thinking.

Phase Three: The Novice Thinker — individuals try to initiate improvements within their thinking, but without relying on regular or consistent practice.

Phase Four: The Proactive Thinker — individuals do recognize the importance of regular practice to improve and enhance their thinking.

Phase Five: The Developed Thinker — individuals begin to advance in accordance with the amount of practice that is awarded to the process.

Phase Six: The Mastery Thinker — individuals become skilled and insightful, where reflective, analytical and evaluative thinking becomes second nature.

Individuals can only develop through these phases if they accept the fact that there are serious problems with their current processes and methods of thinking, and are able to accept the challenge that their thinking presents to them and make it a point to begin regular practice to improve and enhance the components and elements of critical thinking.

Critical Thinking Relies Upon Clarity of Purpose

In order to develop critical thinking, it is important for individuals to be clear as to the purpose of the task or topic at hand, and the main question that is at issue in regard to it. To accomplish this goal, it is essential to: strive to be clear, accurate, precise and relevant, practice thinking beneath the surface, be logical and fair-minded, apply critical thinking skills to all reading, writing, speaking and listening activities, and apply these skills to all aspects of work as well as life in general.

Questioning: The Impetus for Critical Thinking

Dead questions reflect dead minds. Unfortunately, most individuals, (even managers, leaders and trainers) tend not to ask many thought-stimulating types of questions. They tend to stick to dead questions like, “Is this going to be what is expected from now on?” or, “How are we supposed to understand (or do) this?” and other questions that outwardly imply the desire not to think.

Some managers, leaders, trainers or facilitators in turn are not themselves generators of in-depth questions and answers of their own making, which aids in establishing non-critical thinking environments. These individuals are not seriously engaged in thinking through or rethinking through their own initiatives, issues, concerns, topics or instructional concepts and resort to being mere purveyors of the “questions and answers of others.” They often end up initiating or responding to some initial concerns or issues that tend to surface spontaneously during a discussion or meeting, without having personal background information that would otherwise help stimulate deeper levels of creative probing and evaluative questioning. Sometimes they tend to apply second-hand information, knowledge or questions that have been passed down, which limits creative assessments and deeper level questioning. Often they find themselves referencing authors or others who are considered to be experts or leaders in their field rather than questioning important workplace-related issues, ideas, methods or concerns that need to be probed in-depth.

Questioning Through Critical Thinking Keeps the Organization Alive

Every company stays alive only to the extent that fresh questions are generated and taken seriously. These questions are then used as the driving force for generating and implementing changes. To think through or rethink anything, individuals within an organization must ask questions that stimulate deeper levels of thought. Questions define tasks, express problems and identify issues. While answers on the other hand, often signal a full stop in thought. Only when answers generate further questions does thought continue to add value in terms of personal as well as organizational growth and change.

It is important to remember that individuals within an organization, who generate and ask serious and insightful questions, are the ones who are, in fact, truly thinking, developing and learning. It is possible to move an organization forward by just asking employees to list all of the questions that they have about an issue, method or topic, including all questions generated by their first list of questions. However, deep questions drive out thoughts that rest underneath the surface of things and force individuals to deal with complexity. While questions of purpose force individuals to define “their task,” questions of information force individuals to look at their source(s) of information as well as its quality.

Excerpt: Developing Critical Thinking Skills: The Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 18.95 USD

Related:

Decision-Making Begins When an Action Needs to Be Taken

Correctly Framing Problems Pinpoints the Right Solution

Leaders Need to Focus on Questions Rather Than Offering Answers

Six Critical Issues To Consider When Solving Problems

For Additional Information the Author Recommends the Following Books:

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

Conflict Resolution: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Series

Intelligent Decision Making: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series

Planning to Maximize Performance: 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

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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

 

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

Why Organizations Need Critical Thinkers

with 2 comments

Within organizations a lack of critical thinking can be severely damaging. Critical thinking is needed for problem solving, and for generating innovative ideas and solutions. Without creative thinking new paths and avenues of direction fail to be fully explored and forged.

When organizations lack creative thinkers, they tend to see that their working environments are made up of employees who: blindly repeat the destructive or negative reactions they have learned over previous histories of time and events, automatically accept at face value all justifications given by organizational superiors or peers, don’t question existing workplace norms and boundaries, whether they are written or unspoken, beneficial or detrimental, robotically trust internal organizational goals, plans and initiatives, routinely accept and say that if “higher ups” within the organization say it, it must be so, and mechanically accept, believe and say that if the organization does it or promotes it, it must be right or appropriate.

Unfortunately many organizations do create or allow critical thinking limitations within themselves. At times this is unconsciously done by not openly challenging, debating or discussing important issues or topics with all involved employees.

At others, ignoring the importance of critical thinking may be intentional in order to maintain or sustain rigid organizational control and compliance. Both are evidence of organizational shortsightedness, which creates severe limitations for the companies themselves, as well as for all who work within them.

Related: Critical Thinking Organizations Look and Operate Quite Differently

It is far more effective to allow and encourage employees to use and apply their own work related knowledge and experience to help create changes that work to benefit everyone.

Critical Thinking Organizations Look and Operate Quite Differently

Within organizational environments that encourage and promote critical thinkers from within, workplaces are full of employees who apply:

  • Contextual sensitivity — Employees are sensitive to stereotypes and try to unconditionally accept others at face value.
  • Perspective thinking — Employees attempt to get into the “heads and minds” of others, where they are able to walk in the other person’s shoes so as to see the world the way the other person views and perceives things.
  • Tolerance for ambiguity — Employees demonstrate the ability to accept multiple interpretations of the same situation.
  • Alertness to premature ultimatums — Employees are able and willing to invoke a powerful idea or concept, which inspires further debate and assessment.

Master the Characteristics of Being an Effective Critical Thinker

There is another major reason why it is important to have critical thinkers within organizations. These individuals become the “movers and shakers” that act as the driving force for advancing things forward to obtain positive results.

As a critical thinker, it is important to seek out the truth and possess a spirited desire for the best knowledge, even if this knowledge upon obtaining it fails to support or ends up undermining their preconceptions, beliefs or self-interests.

  • Critical thinkers are open-minded and possess a tolerance for divergent views, while at the same time actively monitor themselves for possible existing biases, partiality or preconceptions. They are analytical, insisting on reason and evidence, and are constantly alert to problematic situations since they are inclined to anticipate consequences.
  • Critical thinkers are systematic and value organization, while adhering to purposeful focus and diligence in order to approach problems at all various levels of complexity. They have high self-confidence and trust their own reasoning skills and see themselves as being a good thinker.
  • Critical thinkers are inquisitive and constantly curious and eager to acquire knowledge and learn explanations, even when the applications of the knowledge they glean is not immediately apparent. They possess cognitive maturity and excel at maintaining a sense of wisdom in making, suspending, or revising judgment. This is because of their awareness that multiple solutions can be acceptable. In addition they possess an appreciation of the need to reach closure even in the absence of complete knowledge.

Related: Seven Components of Critical Thinking

Critical Thinkers Need to Incorporate Good Inductive and Deductive Reasoning

Critical thinkers are able to help their organization move ahead for one very important reason: They are good at “inductive and deductive” reasoning. Those who fail to invest time and effort in developing themselves to become more effective at inductive and deductive reasoning will have a much more difficult time analyzing, evaluating and extracting facts and information in a more sophisticated manner. This is what is necessary to reach appropriate and accurate assumptions, conclusions and solutions.

Critical thinkers need to use deductive reasoning to: reach a level of likely certainty about issues, arguments and topics, define or identify one critical argument from a variety of diverse facts, draw a conclusion that follows known facts that are stated within the premise of an issue, argument, topic or subject, rely on certainty that is based on a connection between and argument’s premises and the conclusion drawn from them, determine a “valid argument” as compared to a “sound argument,” and ascertain if the premises (reasons, facts, evidence, etc.) prove with absolute certainty that the conclusion is true, assuming the premises are true.

Critical thinkers use inductive reasoning to: derive a probable conclusion from the observation of diverse facts, learn from experience, generate an argument by using analogies, create hypothetical arguments, conclusions or solutions, and also ascertain a sense of certainty or uncertainty as to a conclusion, which is based on the given evidence, where they cannot establish any likelihood of realistic probability.

Critical Thinkers Must Become Masters of Language

Organizations depend upon active and open communication to achieve results as well as to maintain a sense of momentum, direction and synergy. Thinking without being able to transfer thoughts and reasoning into language and speech makes the whole process of critical thinking ineffective. This is why critical thinkers are so valuable. They take the communication process seriously and learn to use it effectively.

For critical thinkers, language needs to have three major functions, which must be applied effectively to: describe, inform and persuade.

Persuasion is the manner by which individuals attempt to convince others to “their way of thinking” about a topic, idea, concept or method, where all logic, misleading or erroneous reasoning, and problem solving become involved.

Critical thinkers must go about obtaining or promoting the facts in persuasive arguments to “get closer to the truth” and to set “the record straight.” For critical thinkers, their language and words must be able to project factual but logical implications, and practical yet accurate impacts, while they swiftly discern abnormalities, manipulation or erroneous persuasions in the arguments of others.

Related: Seven Styles of Questioning That Sharpen Critical Thinking Skills

Critical Thinkers Must Pay Careful Attention to “Language Forms”

As one of their abilities, critical thinkers need to be quick to pick up on emotionally charged language, as well as emotional meanings and implications, even though they themselves must tend to refrain from applying them unless they have a sound factual argument.

They must also refrain from using, but be quick and alert to pick up on, manipulative language like cons, double talk and jargon. They also need to refrain from applying, but be quick to pick up on rhetorical devices, which include: slanting viewpoints or opinions, applying sly or misleading words, inserting implied or assumed verbal disclaimers, generating complicated or unclear and thoughts, and words and phrases that generate a highly emotional appeal for acceptance.

Excerpt: Developing Critical Thinking Skills: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series by Timothy Bednarz (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011)

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

Critical Thinking Organizations Look and Operate Quite Differently

with one comment

Within organizations a lack of critical thinking can be severely damaging. Critical thinking is needed for problem solving, and for generating innovative ideas and solutions. Without creative thinking new paths and avenues of direction fail to be fully explored and forged.

When organizations lack creative thinkers, they tend to see that their working environments are made up of employees who: blindly repeat the destructive or negative reactions they have learned over previous histories of time and events, automatically accept at face value all justifications given by organizational superiors or peers, don’t question existing workplace norms and boundaries, whether they are written or unspoken, beneficial or detrimental, robotically trust internal organizational goals, plans and initiatives, routinely accept and say that if “higher ups” within the organization say it, it must be so, and mechanically accept, believe and say that if the organization does it or promotes it, it must be right or appropriate.

Unfortunately many organizations do create or allow critical thinking limitations within themselves. At times this is unconsciously done by not openly challenging, debating or discussing important issues or topics with all involved employees. At others, ignoring the importance of critical thinking may be intentional in order to maintain or sustain rigid organizational control and compliance. Both are evidence of organizational shortsightedness, which creates severe limitations for the companies themselves, as well as for all who work within them.

It is far more effective to allow and encourage employees to use and apply their own work related knowledge and experience to help create changes that work to benefit everyone.

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

Critical Thinking Organizations Look and Operate Quite Differently

Within organizational environments that encourage and promote critical thinkers from within, workplaces are full of employees who apply:

Contextual sensitivity — Employees are sensitive to stereotypes and try to unconditionally accept others at face value.

Perspective thinking — Employees attempt to get into the “heads and minds” of others, where they are able to walk in the other person’s shoes so as to see the world the way the other person views and perceives things.

Tolerance for ambiguity — Employees demonstrate the ability to accept multiple interpretations of the same situation.

Alertness to premature ultimatums — Employees are able and willing to invoke a powerful idea or concept, which inspires further debate and assessment.

Related: Seven Components of Critical Thinking

Master the Characteristics of Being an Effective Critical Thinker

There is another major reason why it is important to have critical thinkers within organizations. These individuals become the “movers and shakers” that act as the driving force for advancing things forward to obtain positive results.

As a critical thinker, it is important to seek out the truth and possess a spirited desire for the best knowledge, even if this knowledge upon obtaining it fails to support or ends up undermining their preconceptions, beliefs or self-interests.

Critical thinkers are open-minded and possess a tolerance for divergent views, while at the same time actively monitor themselves for possible existing biases, partiality or preconceptions. They are analytical, insisting on reason and evidence, and are constantly alert to problematic situations since they are inclined to anticipate consequences.

Critical thinkers are systematic and value organization, while adhering to purposeful focus and diligence in order to approach problems at all various levels of complexity. They have high self-confidence and trust their own reasoning skills and see themselves as being a good thinker.

Critical thinkers are inquisitive and constantly curious and eager to acquire knowledge and learn explanations, even when the applications of the knowledge they glean is not immediately apparent. They possess cognitive maturity and excel at maintaining a sense of wisdom in making, suspending, or revising judgment. This is because of their awareness that multiple solutions can be acceptable. In addition they possess an appreciation of the need to reach closure even in the absence of complete knowledge.

Critical Thinkers Need to Incorporate Good Inductive and Deductive Reasoning

Critical thinkers are able to help their organization move ahead for one very important reason: They are good at “inductive and deductive” reasoning. Those who fail to invest time and effort in developing themselves to become more effective at inductive and deductive reasoning will have a much more difficult time analyzing, evaluating and extracting facts and information in a more sophisticated manner. This is what is necessary to reach appropriate and accurate assumptions, conclusions and solutions.

Critical thinkers need to use deductive reasoning to: reach a level of likely certainty about issues, arguments and topics, define or identify one critical argument from a variety of diverse facts, draw a conclusion that follows known facts that are stated within the premise of an issue, argument, topic or subject, rely on certainty that is based on a connection between and argument’s premises and the conclusion drawn from them, determine a “valid argument” as compared to a “sound argument,” and ascertain if the premises (reasons, facts, evidence, etc.) prove with absolute certainty that the conclusion is true, assuming the premises are true.

Critical thinkers use inductive reasoning to: derive a probable conclusion from the observation of diverse facts, learn from experience, generate an argument by using analogies, create hypothetical arguments, conclusions or solutions, and also ascertain a sense of certainty or uncertainty as to a conclusion, which is based on the given evidence, where they cannot establish any likelihood of realistic probability.

Related: Correctly Framing Problems Pinpoints the Right Solution

Critical Thinkers Must Become Masters of Language

Organizations depend upon active and open communication to achieve results as well as to maintain a sense of momentum, direction and synergy. Thinking without being able to transfer thoughts and reasoning into language and speech makes the whole process of critical thinking ineffective. This is why critical thinkers are so valuable. They take the communication process seriously and learn to use it effectively.

For critical thinkers, language needs to have three major functions, which must be applied effectively to: describe, inform and persuade. Persuasion is the manner by which individuals attempt to convince others to “their way of thinking” about a topic, idea, concept or method, where all logic, misleading or erroneous reasoning, and problem solving become involved.

Critical thinkers must go about obtaining or promoting the facts in persuasive arguments to “get closer to the truth” and to set “the record straight.” For critical thinkers, their language and words must be able to project factual but logical implications, and practical yet accurate impacts, while they swiftly discern abnormalities, manipulation or erroneous persuasions in the arguments of others.

Related: Seven Styles of Questioning That Sharpen Critical Thinking Skills

Critical Thinkers Must Pay Careful Attention to “Language Forms”

As one of their abilities, critical thinkers need to be quick to pick up on emotionally charged language, as well as emotional meanings and implications, even though they themselves must tend to refrain from applying them unless they have a sound factual argument.

They must also refrain from using, but be quick and alert to pick up on, manipulative language like cons, double talk and jargon. They also need to refrain from applying, but be quick to pick up on rhetorical devices, which include: slanting viewpoints or opinions, applying sly or misleading words, inserting implied or assumed verbal disclaimers, generating complicated or unclear and thoughts, and words and phrases that generate a highly emotional appeal for acceptance.

Excerpt: Developing Critical Thinking Skills: 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

Not All Questions Are Created Equally

with 3 comments

Questioning is a process used to gain new information and insights on significant issues, problems, or opportunities.

All individuals have asked questions since they first demanded to know “why?” as children, but have not necessarily developed the ability to question effectively in an organizational and/or leadership setting.

When Do We Use Questioning?

Questioning is used throughout the problem solving process to gain better insight and understanding of symptoms, ramifications and complexities.

  • The process depends upon asking and responding to numerous targeted questions, from the initial stages of framing the problem itself to deciding how to implement a chosen action.

Questioning is most powerful in the early stages of the problem solving process. In these early stages, questions will gather and classify data as either reliable or unreliable, as well as better define the problem being addressed.

  • Getting the correct definition of the problem is crucial to all later stages of the problem solving process.
  • If a problem is incorrectly identified and defined, regardless of how the solution is implemented, it can be expected to remain less effective or desirable than it could be.

Related: Seven Styles of Questioning That Sharpen Critical Thinking Skills

Questioning Components

There are five components and six main features of the questioning process, which are important to consider. To be effective, questioning needs to be precise, and to some extent, complex. Most effective questions tend to contain the following components:

Subject matter or topic:

What, in the most general terms, is the questioning about?

Aspect or focus:

This is the angle or point of view on the subject matter. What aspect of the subject matter is the questioning about?

Instruction or comment:

This refers to question wording or phrasing. These inform the responder exactly what to think about before reacting and offering feedback.

Some questions also contain the following components:

Restrictions or expansions of the subject matter:

This is the detailed limitation of the topic; What, in specific terms, is the questioning about?

The questioner’s point of view:

This is dictated by the reasoning and goal behind the questioning process.

Related: The Four Building Blocks of Intelligent Decision Making

Questioning Features

Questioning is to some extent complex, formal, objective, explicit, hedged, and responsible.

Complex:

Questions should contain fewer words and phrases than written and conversational language. In order to obtain specific information, questions need to be dense or concentrated in terms of what is asked for. Typically using more verb-based than noun-based phrases, questions should incorporate limited vocabulary within their topical contexts.

Formal:

The fact that the questioning process is relatively formal implies that effective questions generally tend to avoid colloquial words and expressions.

Objective:

Questioning in an objective manner is an effective and efficient tool for gathering more appropriate and reliable information in order to make a fixed and purposeful decision, or reach an unbiased conclusion.

Within workplace environments, questioning should be far more objective than personal. The main emphasis of asking questions needs to be on the information that one wants to gain or impart by asking questions that progressively lead to self-discovery.

Explicit:

Effective questioning is unambiguous about the relationship between the questioner and the context of the topic being questioned. It is the responsibility of the questioner to make questions clear to the responder and to clearly demonstrate how the various parts of the topic being questioned and responded to, are related. These connections can be made explicit by the use of different signalling words within questions.

Hedged:

In any kind of questioning, it is necessary to make decisions about one’s stance before asking about a particular subject, or the strength of the claims being made as a result of asking certain types of questions. Question hedging is done through limiting the extent of questions for one reason or another. Diluting or polluting a question’s intent in an unclear or biased manner also does it. In either case, question hedging confuses responders and hinders the total questioning process.

Responsible:

In effective questioning, the questioner must be responsible for and able to provide evidence and justification for any facts or opinions that are made. The questioner is also responsible for having documented support for the questions being asked and their expected or anticipated responses.

Related: Encourage Questions to Improve Open Communication

Adapted From: 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 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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