The Power of Asking Questions

Lately, my blog posts have been deeply introspective. Today,  I will throw a curve ball, focusing on an extremely practical topic: how questions can help your team reframe its mindset. 

Recently, I sent three questions to our operation team’s leaders:

  • What would more automation make possible? 
  • From a human perspective, what is the best thing that has happened in your plant in the last 30 days? Feel free to brag on one of your team members!
  • What excites you most about coming to work this season? 

I gave the team a few days to think about these questions before we met in person. We kicked off our meeting by discussing them. 

The first question was the only question that contained a “visionary” element to it. Our company currently has more automation projects than ever before, so the question got our leaders thinking about what I hoped they would think about: what more automation could make possible for their team members. One operation team leader shared that more automation would “allow their team to focus on more ‘life-giving’ tasks rather than mundane, repetitive activities.” In essence, this person gave voice to the “why” behind our strategy. 

The second question solicited the strongest responses from the group. One leader shared something I had not previously known: Team members in one of our plants had done some creative things to support a fellow employee who has cancer. It was the kind of story that made tears well up in the eyes of even our most reserved leaders — I was fighting back tears myself. It was touching and helped remind us of the “why” we do what we do: because everything we do matters to people. 

Finally, the last question also solicited strong responses. Some in the group related that while the previous couple of years had been hard, they appreciated the “fun” (their word) automation projects we have going on. Another person mentioned the team they lead and their generosity to someone in need. And yet another explained that they were enjoying the experience of building into one of their staffers, watching them flourish. 

As we got ready to move on to other topics, I asked the team if they felt different after discussing these questions — and all said they did. One even commented that they felt renewed to talk about the business issues of the day. 

I agreed — It was exactly what I needed as well. 

This is the power of questions. And my invitation to you is to ask good ones this week. Questions will help make your week better and your team stronger.