I must have said the word ‘ask’ 50 times yesterday – from “how do you ask?” to guide my small grandson to use please and thank you to “what did you ask the client?” when coaching a team on how to communicate with difficult clients. The beauty of learning how to ASK is magic on so many levels. But first let’s discuss –
What NOT to Ask
Knowing how a question triggers other people is an asset in your professional and personal life. For example: People who tend to use more strategic thinking are frequently curious about why something matters, is important now, or is meaningful. They tend to want to ask ‘Why’ questions. This rarely bodes well for the conversation because the act of asking WHY puts the receiver of this question on the defensive – automatically. It drives the conversation backwards with the person feeling the need to defend themselves in the answer.
What to Ask instead
Instead of asking “Why”, I recommend asking a “How” or “What” style of question. These two approaches move the conversation forward without the defensive feelings received before. A “Why does this matter?” question easily moves into a “What would you gain?” type question. Or a “How would this matter to the success of the project?” question. Just shifting from the recipient feeling defensive to getting to share more information is helpful to all. In fact, this same approach was recommended in Todd Kashdan’s book, Curiosity, the missing ingredient to a fulfilling life (2010) when discussing research on using curiosity to mitigate anxiety in others.
Leaders who Ask gain more clarity
The act of asking is also an act of generosity. Asking a question of someone else opens the conversation to receiving information, letting the other feel heard and valued, and being open to new information.
Leaders who ASK more gain recognition
To get recognized as a great leader, you would be wise to give the floor to other people more often by asking them questions and letting them answer them. Leaders who spend more time listening than talking set themselves apart from the average leader.
Leaders who ASK more get paid more
Leading by developing and guiding others sets you up to be paid more. Leaders are rewarded who can keep an organization healthy with talent, and thriving with access to more talent.
Asking can seem complicated
What to ask becomes a new issue for many who are wanting to adopt this technique without reverting back to childhood when we all asked “Why?” ad nauseam. Again, you can let go of asking “why”. To make asking the tough questions easier, I researched and found a wealth of knowledge from Harvard professors to organizational psychologists to conflict negotiators. What I was able to understand about our brains and boil down into a simple technique was a three step framework for gaining other people’s insights, perspectives, and opinions without losing control of the conversation and letting others go down negative paths of conversations or offering unsolicited advice.
The ASK framework was born
In a nutshell, the framework consists of identifying what context your question is about, asking for only one piece of information, and asking for an example. There is a magic in gaining this type of information and the order in which you ask for the information doesn’t have to be rigid. Understanding each part’s magic is fun and sets you apart.
Be the Leader who Asks great questions!