Monthly Archives: February 2013

It is the question stupid!

WDYT – Have you heard of this acronym?

Mostly thought to be a perfect hedging ploy, this is actually a powerful pointer to perhaps a crucial leadership trait.

What do you think?

Uh oh! Don’t answer it! For that is the answer. Not just to WDYT, but also to the million dollar question that distinguishes the leader from the worker ant in an organization.

If you wonder where I am getting at, consider this. As children, we revel in asking questions. The more we ask, the more we are touted as smart and intelligent. In our curiosity, we hold a complementing smarter weapon. “What happens if…..?”

And then, school happens. And later, college. Where we are indoctrinated to provide the answers. Forget smart aleck questions. The why, how, what, when, where…all become three, four and five letter bad words!

By the time we hit the workplace, we are robotically trained to provide answers. Even as we rise through the ranks, we still remain the front line – providing information to our seniors, expected to know all the answers. Heck, it is engraved in our job descriptions as the stamp of our skills and competence!

Till one day, wham! The all-important question socks us in our jaw. Why are we running to stay in the same place? Why is it that in spite of being proclaimed as the experts with all the answers, we are still rungs below our well-meaning bosses?

This is the time to slam the brakes, stop and ask that question a little louder. And pursue the dozen other corollary questions that arise with it.

But no…we think we need to become a greater expert at finding more answers before we hit the high spot. And we furiously accelerate to the depths of a frustrating prison.

It is the question stupid! Not the answers!

In our frantic search for answers, in our anxiety to please by providing them, we forget that it is always the question that gives the answer. Our search should therefore be for questions. Ever wonder why is it your toddler finds that speck of dirt in a home you attempt to keep spotless? It is because he goes searching for it in the nooks and crannies. And so should it be with our questions.

Wise and smart are the ones who not only ask insightful questions but also do not shirk from admitting they do not have the answers. Call it humility, call it pragmatic self-confidence, call it what you will – it is they who have learnt the ultimate truth. That admission of ignorance is the best step to liberating oneself from the insecurity and fear of having to know everything!

When you ask a question, you actually place yourself respectfully on an equal platform with the one you direct it to. It works beautifully both ways. If you are the senior, you give a chance for your junior to develop. If you are the junior, it is a shot in the arm to touch that moment of equality, even if for that moment!

So try consciously to step back from providing answers to asking questions. In your daily meetings resist the urge to answer at least one general question to which you know the answer (unless, of course, specifically asked for an important purpose).  And ask at least one smart question a day.

Who knows then, you may rewrite the proverbial saying to “A question a day keeps my frustration away!”