Differences Between QuestionsBy Gary Cohen
What is the difference
between challenging questions and intimidating questions?
Challenging questions open people up to creative thinking. When John F. Kennedy suggested we put a man on the moon, many challenging questions followed. What materials should we use to build a spaceship? How can we get through the earth's atmosphere? How can a spaceship land successfully on the moon? How can astronauts walk safely in zero gravity? Challenging questions inspire people to action-to bridge the gulf between possibility and reality.
Intimidating questions shut off creative thinking. Why haven't we done this? How could this have happened? Who was responsible for this? These questions will rot an organization from the inside. When people feel judged, they no longer feel empowered. They no longer want to take risks. They no longer consider innovative possibilities for themselves and the organization. Their fear of censure causes them to close up and take a defensive posture.
According to Tim Welsh, Managing Partner at McKinsey & Co. ( Minneapolis office), if you strike fear in your team members, they won't share their true thoughts. Instead, they will try to infer what your point is and present it back to you. He says you "have to create an environment around you where people can share with you their thoughts as they arise."
So, how do you create this kind of environment? How do you find the root cause of a problem without passing judgment and instilling fear? Rather than looking to assign blame, make the search about finding a solution, not finding the problem. Awaken the creative thinking in your organization. Ask, "How might we improve in the future?"