Q -> A -> P

Confused with the title of this article.  Reading it at first either created curiosity in you to figure out what ‘Q -> A -> P’ meant and thus you are reading this article or, worst, it might have confused you enough for you to choose to leap over this article and carry on with what you were doing on the internet.  This is exactly what happens with the kind of questions we ask; either to our team or peers or seniors, they would choose to leap over it and carry on or they will stand, think and wonder what it would take to find the right answer to it.  Well, in most cases you will find the earlier behaviour as the result.

This behaviour is not atypical.  Don’t agree?  Try this. 

Closely observe yourself when you are in a meeting or a discussion and there are questions being asked.  Register and note down how many questions which were asked actually made you want to find the right answer to it, or succeeded in getting the honest response out of you [or others] and resulted in an alignment with the conversation…the purpose with which the question was posed, and how many of them really increase your desire to collaborate with the person who asked those questions…to either learn more or improve upon something. 

From my experience, it is only around 10% of the questions asked in meetings actually have the potential to make you think, the rest are only meant to continue with the conversation but not add any real value, some of them are infact questions out of frustration which are only intended to tell you how upset that person is and that’s it.  But what is unfortunate is that even these 10% questions fail to inspire the right thought process and we end up with a defensive or an unclear response.  Which is why, most of the action points which emerge from the meetings either result in no substantial action-improvement or in most likely cases reach an impasse due to enormous to-fro…net-net; nothing productive is resulted

If you agree with my observations, are you already wondering ‘why’ does this happen? ‘what’ needs to be done to change this behaviour?  [or should I stop attending meetings or calling for one, as they yield no results until I have a reason strong enough to have a one or attend one?]

I have been thinking about this myself as I have attended or have had meetings which met the unfortunate end of ‘no action-improvement’.  I feel that to make the meetings and our discussions effective, as leaders, we need to learn to ask better and right questions; ones which inspire the audience to want to think of an answer, those which result in the team wanting to align better with the very purpose of we asking that question and I am sure if we are able to achieve this, we will be able to impact performance positively more often than not. 

Like the opening paragraph of this article, I feel the key lies in the questions – good ‘Q’uestions makes the audience relate to and want to find an answers for them, there by resulting in ‘A’lignment towards the cause of the questions, which in turn results in productive action and positive impact on the ‘P’erformance…thus, as the title suggests…

Question -> Alignment -> Performance

As leaders, we need to connect honestly with our team, peers and seniors.  As much as it is our need to connect with others, equally important it is to clearly know what to ask, how to ask and where to ask.  I feel that we, in most cases, can do a good job at finding the ‘what’ to ask but we generally tend to struggle or make mistakes in the ‘how’ part of asking questions.

Below I have suggested a few ways I feel we can address the ‘how’ part of asking questions.

As leaders we generally tend to collect or build a background around the point we need to ask our questions on.  However, in this process, we have thought over the questions so much – so often and mentally tried to answer them for ourselves [while preparing for the meeting or discussion] that we generally tend to be close-ended with the answers we expect to hear.  I feel that to encourage the audience [it could be the team, peers or seniors] for them to give right information, background and perspective to the questions; which will help us find the right answers eventually; it is critical that we remain open-endedWe need to ask questions not only to know what happened but more importantly what they were thinking at that time.  Asking open-ended questions prevents us from making any judgements based on our understanding or assumptions of the situation.  What happened, How it happened, Why it happened are the kind of questions which encourage a dialogue.

We need to be engaged during the conversation, act as we truly are there to listen to them, have affirmative and engaged body language which makes them feel our desire to truly be a part of the problem and help them find a solution to it.

We should always be curious to know more but the caveat is to make them speak more than us.  Those who tend to do all the talking are often deaf to other’s needs, avoid this trap as it will make you lose their confidence in you.  It is often observed that leaders feel that talking first and being the last person to voice an opinion on the topic is a sign of strength and authority, but this is not true.  Such an attitude often cuts off the information at its source.  Instead, being curious shows our interest in knowing more and willingness to go to the root of the problem and help find the right solution for it.  This will really encourage people to open up and share very important information and pointers which will truly help in finding the right solution.

Last but not the least, we should always probe to get the whole story and dig deeper to reach the roots. 

I have tried the above and have found them to be extremely useful in directing the course of the meeting or a discussion towards a productive end – almost all the action items from the meeting were executed and resulted in the output we desired.  It also helped me come up with some very productive initiatives for my teams [at my previous organization and current] which are already showing positive impact on the performance and more importantly the team. 

If you agree with the observations I have cited about and with the suggestions I have made then why not give it a shot yourself…go for it and let me know how it went.  Let us all learn from each other’s experiences.

Explore posts in the same categories: Leadership, People Management

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