Leadership Tip: Why Asking “Why” May Not Produce the Results You Want
Time to Read: 1.5 mins...
The question “why?” has an inherent accusatory edge. When confronted with “Why did that happen? or “Why did you do that?” people tend to become defensive and try to avoid being blamed for something that may not be their fault. The answer they want to give is “I dunno!” But they won’t say that for fear of appearing ineffectual.
The intent in asking “why?” is to look backward and locate a root cause that can be acted upon quickly. Problem is that root causes are elusive and complex – simple answers are hard to find.
And, as long as someone is focusing on defending themselves from blame, they aren’t fully available to brainstorm and move forward.
Instead, ask What, Where, Who, When and How questions.
These questions are inherently neutral and not accusative. They encourage engagement in constructive dialogue. And they are aimed at finding a fix for the problem to move forward more effectively.
Asking these questions will stimulate a dialogue that is likely to result in a solid plan of action and uncover some of those root issues as well.
Having suggested all this, please understand, I am not saying you should never ask “why.” It is a perfectly good and useful question when used selectively. Just think about whether it is the best question to ask in the situation you are facing.
What questions would you add to the list? – share them below
PS: If you are a US citizen at home or abroad, remember to vote!