Question Culture

Encouraging questions in a system that doesn’t

The following is an email I sent to my team a couple weeks ago. It’s an effort to undo the “robot-like” behavior you can get from employees (and students). It’s an effort to continue getting feedback from my team. It’s a bit of vulnerability. “I’m open. Will you be open with me?”

Comrades,

I was talking with a friend of mine yesterday who voiced to me the struggle of knowing when to ask questions in her work environment.

Am I asking too much?

I should know the answer to this question!

My boss wants me to ask questions but does she really mean it?

I feel annoying!

It became apparent that this situation was about much more than just asking questions.

I feel our grand insufficiency as humans has stifled our instinct to ask questions. Perhaps you had a teacher, friend or family member who snapped at you one day for asking too many questions. Or perhaps you were made fun of for not knowing the answer to one of your questions — which could instill a fear of asking ever again.

This could not be more detrimental to our learning. We’ve all had that time in a classroom where the teacher finally opens up the discussion for questions and the class draws one gigantic blank.

Nope. No questions.

I wasn’t even thinking of questions to ask.

Aside from my insecurities about questions, I’m rarely ever given such free range to ask anything!

So, team: I think about my natural position among us as not only the “guy in charge” but also the one who’s been there the longest. I guess… of course, questions will come towards me. Could it be my responsibility to foster an environment where all questions are not just “fair game” but an advantage to our game?

I’m sorry our inquisitivity (not a word) has been stifled. I’m sorry we’ve potentially been cut deeper to think that nothing we have to say is worthwhile (this is huge for me personally).

Please know: on our team, your question (even the one you’ve asked 6 times now and you’re still not getting it, and even the one that has nothing to do with anything at work) is welcome. It will be a challenge for all of us to learn to ask and receive with open arms our silliest and serioust (most serious, also not a word) of questions.

If you were engaged, challenged or outraged by this, please heart & share so that others might see it.