Alex Dutch-Greene

Overcoming Boundaries: The Art of Question-Asking

Asking questions can lead to producing effective solutions and increasing company innovation.

As an employee in a large company, it can sometimes be very difficult to solve a problem – especially if you are at the bottom of the food chain. The boundaries established within a traditionally structured organization can make asking questions and finding answers a tedious process. However, there are ways for employees to break through the “organizational hierarchy”  so questions are recognized and answers are delivered. Thoughtful questions gain recognition from co-workers and employers and establish meaningful bonds. Employees must know not only how to ask the right questions, but to whom they should direct those questions. Optimizing the efficiency and effectiveness of corporate processes is equally important when creates a work environment that facilitates open communication. To achieve this, many organizations are fostering knowledge-sharing solutions (like SolvePath) which allow employees to ask questions and receive answers from the most qualified individuals within an organization, despite the challenges posed by corporate hierarchy.

 

Asking powerful and effective questions can be difficult. It involves being a good listener, gathering information, and effective question structuring. Listening and gathering information is just as important as asking questions. It is crucial to do these things objectively to find meaning in the words of the speaker. One should strive to understand topics by allowing the speaker time to profess his or her thoughts, and then repeat the information aloud back to the speaker to clarify main points. Not only can this make employees more knowledgeable on subjects discussed, but it will allow them to produce effective and powerful questions.

 

Before asking questions, employees should consider how a question is worded, its intended meaning, and what type of reaction it will produce. The structure of the question will determine how much information is communicated and how the information it contains will be received. Most people begin questions with “why.” Business coaches advise that questions beginning with “how,” or “what,” tend to be most effective and will most likely receive responses providing additional “who,” “where,” and “when,” information. Asking open-ended questions is a sure-fire way to engage in meaningful discussions and gather as much information as possible, while allowing employees to easily structure future questions and responses. Overall, questions need to be carefully contemplated and executed in a productive and professional manner to receive the most meaningful responses and resulting solutions.

 

Asking the right people the right questions is also essential. Employees will typically consult their co-workers first to avoid immediately confronting their bosses. However, there are several things to keep in mind when consulting co-workers for input. First, one must ask work-related questions only when seeking answers and not just for the sake of engaging in conversation. People who ask the right questions gain credibility and can even garner increased attention from superiors. Carefully working up the chain-of-command will facilitate more opportunities to speak with employers.

 

When opening up a discussion with an employer, it is important to stay confident and predict reactions ahead of time. Employees must avoid asking yes/no questions, direct the conversation accordingly, and not be afraid to ask for clarification. Employers will recognize when employees care about making meaningful contributions to the company. Engaging in meaningful conversations can convey reliability and trustworthiness. Managers will be impressed by employees who are able to listen and ask questions effectively.

 

It is in the best interests of every employer to create ways for their employees to ask questions and gather information. Company growth depends on the ability of employees to ask questions and seek answers that will facilitate effective problem-solving and foster innovation. SolvePath, for example, provides a direct line to experts within an organization, so that employees can reach up the corporate ladder and engage experts in real-time, thus facilitating solution-finding. A properly-asked question on SolvePath will gain attention from experts and open up further discussions about a given topic. Once a question is posted on SolvePath, it will automatically direct those questions to the most relevant colleagues. Following topics and questions is a definite plus, especially when several employees are looking for answers on the same topic. Problem-solving involves opening up communication channels, both in person and online. Asking the right questions is the key to finding meaningful solutions.

 

Sources:

  1. MacKay, H. (2012). Ask the Right Questions to Get the Best Answers. http://businesscard2.com/resources/ask-the-right-questions-to-get-the-best-answers
  2. Leonard, I. (2012). The Art of Effective Questioning: Asking the right question for the desired result. http://www.coachingforchange.com/pub10.html