The Power of Questions

Being critical or cynical is very different than being curious.

Questions have nothing in common with judgments and opinions. In fact, you should throw away everything you think you know when figuring out the real questions you have.

When we are leading change, we almost always don’t know what we don’t know. The only way to know is to figure out what you are trying to do and what you are trying to understand, and this takes real heads-down time to plan out and document. Start with what you know for sure (not what you think you know), where you need to go (define successful results), and what you need to know to get there. Ultimately, once you know the real questions you could find out you already know the answer or know just where to find it.

Don’t be afraid to be the question expert, to be the most curious person in the room. If your parents told you to “stop asking questions” at a young age, throw that advice out the window- it does not serve you when you are thinking critically and leading change!

“To be a critical thinker requires curiosity; it requires you to want to know more, hear more, think more. It requires you to not take things at face value.”

Jay Forte, Curiousity and Critical Thinking

The thing about cynics and critics

If you think you may be a critical or cynical person, it might be you are just being curious and are worried you will come across as critical/cynical. Because we all know when we actually run into a real critic or a cynical person, these people are usually responsible for cutting off all creative energy in any room.

Leading change requires genuine curiosity and openness, a real collaboration across teams and people.

So when someone on the project team is taking actions geared at finding fault, judging, criticizing, or censoring it can be a big risk factor in ultimate project success. While there is an upside to getting their feedback in order to get a new perspective, they often intimidate others from participating which brings more harm than good. I recommend the following ideas as you consider what is right for your project and team dynamics:

  • Quickly cut these people from the core team, and bring them in for testing activities so you can get some new perspectives in a way that keeps the rest of the team with the open and creative energy you need.
  • If given their role, they have to be part of the core team then figure out a way to have an open and honest conversation with them about the goals of the project and how their actions affect the team negatively when they are not coming from a curious place.
  • If you tend to be very critical or judging of others yourself, whether it is from a cynical place or other reasons, please consider being part of a team that is leading change is not about anyone being “right or wrong” but about everyone bringing their unique perspectives and knowledge to share so the team can make better decisions as a whole.