THE SHOP

Performance & Hotrod Business February '14

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Questioning as a Mind Stimulant L eaders can emphasize the importance of questioning by welcoming all those "why" and "how" questions, and asking a lot of them as well. They 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 also 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. 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. An Uncompleted Puzzle Working environments tend to present an endless supply of puzzles. The only problem is that, 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 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-anderror 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. The Importance of Questioning One of the goals leaders should have is to teach their employees how to find or fashion satisfying answers to workrelated 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). --Timothy Bednarz February 2014 PHBFEB.indd 87 n Performance & Hotrod Business n 87 1/3/14 12:23 PM

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