Use your magic wisely. Where are your questions taking you?
Have you worked on a project where your fact finding turns up exactly what you were looking for? You high-five your project or due diligence team, lean back in your chair and congratulate yourselves for your spot-on intuition and powers of critical observation? It’s an excellent feeling, and it affirms your self-confidence as a master inquirer.
It turns out that our powers in this regard are a bit magical. As individuals, groups, teams and organizations we are very likely to find exactly what we are looking for, once we start the search.
Of course, there is a catch. Traditional methods of problem solving and project management offer a great example. We are taught to direct our attention to the ‘gaps’ – the places where something is missing, broken, worn out, and not working. This deficit-based mentality has an interesting outcome. (Wait for it…) We find all the missing, broken and worn-out stuff – often because that is exactly what we were seeking. While we may have found what we were looking for, we are left with a proverbial pile of rubble, or perhaps a big hole.
The right questions are a catalyst for progress, growth and change. Especially when the questions seek diverse perspectives and points-of-view, enlist others in the process of exploration and creation, focus on strengths and capabilities, and build upon past successes.
What if we changed the model and focused on what we do well? What if we asked, how our team has achieved its greatest successes; what our customers admire most about us; what are our greatest operating capabilities; how can we increase market share; how can we improve our cycle-times; what would an improved customer experience look and feel like? This asset or strengths-based perspective provides us with a deeper understanding of where our value lies, individually and in aggregate. Essential for positive and productive outcomes – this kind of questioning creates buy-in and enhances stakeholder engagement. It also provides an inventory of tools, information, behaviors, skills and mindsets, which can instantly be leveraged to our advantage.
We are conditioned to look at our world with a critical eye, questioning what we see; looking for deeper meaning and opportunity in what we experience and encounter. This is a tremendously good and valuable skill; however, our approach needs to be re-conceived. Rather than searching for a quick solution, with laser-like attention on what needs repair; strengths-based inquiry offers a constructive approach. Exploring capabilities and acknowledging past accomplishments, builds strength and encourages higher levels of productivity, adds value to the business bottom line and enriches our work lives.
Rather than seeking an instant solution, encourage a few, positively-framed questions – you’ll be amazed at what happens. If you would like a partner to help you craft your questions and a whole new inquiry experience, drop us a line.
Together for a strong future™,
Laura Kellers Queen EdD