Yes, there are stupid questions
To ask or not to ask, that is the question
It’s been a particularly wild few weeks in business, with numerous meetings presentations, and great sessions with stakeholders in healthcare. So this week, instead of a new article, I’m sharing a popular one from the Weekly Contrarian vault. Enjoy!
When I first became an entrepreneur, during meetings, usually at the end of the meeting, I asked, “Does anyone have a question?”
Nine times out of ten, no one would raise their hand. I’d move on, confident that I’d done a stellar job of explaining the material.
I was wrong. The email responses made it clear that there were plenty of partners, customers, or employees who weren’t getting it.
So I decided to run an experiment. Instead of asking, “Does anyone have any questions?” I began to say, “I’ll now take your questions,” or even better, “The material we just covered was confusing, and I’m confident there are plenty of you with questions. This is a great time to ask them.”
The number of hands that went up increased dramatically.
I realized that “Does anyone have any questions?” was a stupid question. I had forgotten how hard it is for executives who pride themselves on their intellectual powers to admit that they didn’t understand something in a crowd of peers.
My reframed question made it easier for everyone to raise their hands. It made it clear that the material was difficult and I expected there to be questioned. With this reframing, my desired outcome (more questions from stakeholders) became the norm — not the exception.
If you ask a new employee, “Everything going well so far?,” you’re not really asking for their opinion. You’re making a statement (what you really mean is “I trust everything is going well.”) In most cases, this “question” will produce a response that will parrot your assumption instead of revealing how they really feel.
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