The Power of the "What"
Courage, Vulnerability and Being Wholehearted at Work

Working with the Questions


Last week I wrote that one of the key 21st century skills I think we need is a more advanced capacity for questions. Questions are a topic I've explored frequently here and they are a skill I'm trying to develop in myself for both professionald and personal reasons. 

Tenneson Wolf has an excellent post on different types of questions that can be asked that I think provides us with some great fodder for conversation. This is his list of question types:

  1. “Wait-a-minute” -- The ones that make us pause and realize there is more to discover. 

  2. “Sit-on-it” -- Questions that can’t be answered when they are asked. They require some time to think, and perhaps even let go of for a time.

  3. “Address-the-grand-assumption” -- Or as Hani, one of the participants challenged, address even the smaller assumptions. Karen, one participant from a team of county planners, asked this type of question regarding her work -- “well, when did we start believing that we needed to pave all of our roads?” She was thinking systemically, aware of the cost and resource implications of that assumption.

  4. “Name-the-elephant” -- The unspoken that many people know and feel, and that if left unaddressed, renders the work less meaningful or real. 

  5. “Still-cooking” -- The ones that keep us actively learning. Or even better, reaching, stretching, letting go, reorganizing, innovating. 

  6. “Antenna-out” -- Yes, another variation of continuous learning and attention giving. But even further, an invitation to be learning on behalf of the whole. 

  7. “Me/I” -- These shift responsibility back to fundamental accountability and relationship of us as individuals, rather than unintentionally being lost in the bigness of we or them questions. I’ve seen this shift many times. Me/I questions harvest what emerges in expansive thinking to give clarity and responsibility of first next steps of action.

All of these questions can be applied in a career/professional development context. For example, an "address-the-grand-assumption" question I frequently ask people is "Is working for a company (as opposed to working for yourself) the best way for you to find career satisfaction?" I find that many people think in terms of "jobs" and that they haven't considered the possibilities of working for themselves

A good "wait-a-minute" question is asking people to consider what would happen if they think about their current job as a home base, rather than as a prison. How does that shift their understanding of their situation and how they can use it to their advantage? 

One of the hardest types of questions to ask in a career context is the "name-the-elephant" question. For example, people may be reluctant to make a career change because they've assumed financial responsibility for their families. But what happens if they ask the "name-the-elephant"question about their partner (or other family members) assuming that role for awhile? 

And "Me-I" questions are critically important. One of the most crucial is "Are you the cause or the effect?" 

I'm constantly working on trying to find the great questions that will help me move my work forward. This framework can be a really helpful way to do that. 

What questions are you asking? How do these types of questions help you expand your questioning ability? How do they help you improve your work environment?




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