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Tag Archives: ask clarifying questions

As a career coach, I am well aware of the rigors of the modern workplace. Many businesses are understaffed or have ultra-high expectations for their employees, demanding sixty or eighty-hour work weeks. There’s a lot of rushing around, and forging ahead on projects…even if the plan or objective isn’t crystal clear. And that can cause a lot of trouble in the long run.

If there’s no room for question-asking, a work team could end up missing a crucial deadline, misinterpreting a client’s needs, or taking a project in the completely wrong direction. The team will then have to back-pedal and try to correct their errors, costing the company time and money.

The simple way to prevent such mishaps is by simply asking questions.

Good leaders not only ask questions, but encourage others to ask questions. This creates a culture of openness and candid interactions. Questions also can open up a dialogue about the best course of action, rather than limiting future actions to one set of ideas.

Utilize questions to…

Clarify

When a client or manager is introducing a new initiative or project, be sure to ask questions to make sure you understand everything correctly. If you are the one explaining a new concept to others, be sure to ask if they have any specific questions about the actions and objectives.

Learn more about asking great clarifying questions in my video on clarity.

Put Forth New Ideas

There is usually more than one path to a solution. When you ask questions that challenge the current way of doing things, you open up new ways of thinking and acting. These are the “What if…?” questions. They are the questions that encourage your team to think outside the box and become more innovative and creative.

Challenge

There’s a tactful way to challenge an idea, project, or statement. Use questions to uncover any holes in a plan, and gently offer a solution. A tactful challenging question may sound like this:

“I know your team has extensively tested the product on U.S. audiences, but have you considered our international market?”

OR: “I know we’ve been using the same financial tracking equipment for years, but have we thought about exploring XYZ Equipment?”

Dig Deeper

Use questions to really sink your teeth into a project and learn about the thinking behind it. “Digging questions” help to unearth any potential flaws in a plan and open up a dialogue to explore other possibilities.

These questions might ask, “How did we conclude that this is the best course of action?” or “What are some alternative ways we could market to X?” or “How does the data back this decision?” These kinds of questions will challenge your team to be more reflective and thoughtful about their current course of action (and potential future actions) and how they arrived at certain decisions.

 

Creating an open atmosphere that encourages asking questions can tremendously strengthen an organization. When people feel comfortable enough to ask clarifying questions or explore alternative routes, that opens the floor to increased creativity, candidness, and a sense of collaborative decision-making.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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The #1 Way to Grow Your Career

There are many ways to grow and flourish within your career. You can take classes or expand your skills through research and application. You can find a mentor and learn from their experiences. You can take on new and diverse projects in order to stretch yourself and your abilities.

But at the heart of it all is one key element: the ability and the willingness to be COACHABLE.

When you’re coachable, you open yourself up to possibilities. You acknowledge that you don’t know everything and are willing to accept feedback and learn. You admit that you are sometimes wrong and look for ways to improve your current way of thinking/doing/behaving.

It isn’t always easy to be coachable. Many of us (especially if we’ve been in the same job for quite a while) tend to believe that our way is the best and leave little room for criticism or critique. It’s time to turn that kind of thinking around.

Start by asking for feedback.

Regularly ask your co-workers and superiors for feedback and then LISTEN to what they have to say. It doesn’t have to be in a formal meeting; it might be as simple as approaching a co-worker and saying, “Hey, Sally. How do you think my presentation went? Would you have changed any of the slides? Or maybe emphasized other material?”

Ask clarifying or follow-up questions if need-be. And remember to keep your defensive side in check! Even if you don’t agree with the feedback, take it gracefully. Say something like, “That’s an interesting take, Sally. I hadn’t seen it from that angle before.”

Keep in mind that not all feedback is quality feedback. Take your time to mull it over or get a second opinion (For more tactics and tricks on how to receive and utilize feedback, please see December’s newsletter).

When you’re coachable, you seek to expand your knowledge. Beyond soliciting feedback, start exploring ways to build or update your skills through webinars, in-person classes, training workshops, or one-on-one meetings with experts in your field. If your workplace is not proactive in seeking those opportunities, you may have to hunt for them on your own. Don’t be afraid to approach your boss and ask if the company could sponsor you (and your co-workers) in a specific learning program. If nothing else, you’ll open up a dialogue about advanced training.

Another way to grow your skills through coaching is to seek a mentor or be a mentor.

If you’re new to a company, new to a certain position, or seeking to advance within the company, a mentor can help you achieve those aims. If your workplace doesn’t have a formal mentoring program, seek a mentor on your own and invite that person to meet with you every now and again. Start small! You might scare people off if they think mentorship is too big of a commitment. Ask if they’ll meet with you for lunch once or twice a month, and go from there.

On the flip side, if you’ve been with your company a while, consider being a mentor. As a mentor, you’ll learn to see the company with new eyes and you may begin to explore the company and your position in ways that you hadn’t previously considered.

You have endless potential! Grow and evolve in your career by being coachable.

 

Seeking further guidance? Please feel free to contact me today.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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