Using Jeff Goldblum to create a better environment for learning

I’ve found that encouraging people to ask questions is the best way to create a healthy environment for learning

“How can we use Jeff Goldblum to do this?” you ask.

I’ll get to that but first let’s look at why questions are important.

Source: http://www.incidentalcomics.com/2015/08/asking-questions.html

When someone asks a question they are asking for your help or some information

It might seem like an obvious statement but if someone needs to ask a question then they need help or information. It can be hard to ask for assistance, especially if we feel like we should know the answers or if people are busy.

When people feel like they can’t ask for help it becomes a problem.

What could happen if people feel uncomfortable asking questions?

When people are afraid to ask questions you start to see all sorts of problems. A few of these problems might be:

  • People making mistakes rather than asking questions.
    How often have you heard “Sorry, I didn’t want to disturb you so I just …”?
  • Lower quality work
    Adding more points of view or another person reviewing work will bring new perspectives and highlight potential issues
  • Juniors not progressing
    Juniors can leap ahead in knowledge by learning from more experienced team members. (experienced team members can learn a lot from juniors too but that’s a blog post for another time!)
  • Tasks not getting completed
    If someone doesn’t know how to do something they might just not do it and hope that no one notices.

Making people feel comfortable asking questions

Imagine you ask your colleague for some help. How would you feel if you saw each of these reactions?

The eye roll

Reacting with an eye roll sends a negative signal before you even start talking

I think you’d feel:

  • Instantly uncomfortable
    Not a great start to this conversation. You won’t want to ask follow up questions.
  • Less confident about your own expertise
    You should obviously know this piece of information if it’s causing your colleague to react like this.
  • Like you’ve done something wrong
    Maybe you should have just stayed quiet!

The Jeff Goldblum

Taking a moment to listen to the question makes the question feel welcome

I’m guessing you’d feel:

  • Comfortable
    This person is listening to you and you’ve asked something very interesting. You’ll definitely feel happy asking and clarifying questions to make sure you’ve got the information you need.
  • Confident
    Your colleagues reaction shows that your question wasn’t stupid after all. Maybe you’re getting the hang of your role.
  • Empowered
    This was a good idea. You’ll ask more questions in future.

It can be hard to receive all questions in a positive manner especially when your are busy or stressed. Remember that by educating your colleagues you will allow them to help you and eventually you’ll make your work much easier.

Let me know how you get on

Thanks for reading. Please let me know if you found this useful and let me know other ways you’ve found to encourage learning within your work environment. You can reply to this story or find me on Twitter or LinkedIn.