This is a 4 part series on 4 Reasons Asking Questions Is Better Than A Dictatorship.  Each will be discussed at length over the next few months.

One day, a client asked me for professional assistance. I knew that it was going to take a good 2-3 hours and a web meeting to address the issue, so I asked one of my employees to take the lead and follow up.

A week later, as I was reconciling timesheets, I was shocked by what I saw. My employee had driven 90 miles one way to be on site with the client – and then spent 2 days there!

I was torn. You see, I’m a huge believer in thoroughly consulting and assisting my clients. On the other hand, this was an issue that should have been resolved in only 2-3 hours.

Asking Questions Helps You Learn

I’ve learned through reading, mentoring, and life experiences that asking questions is vital. I recently read Marilee Adams’ game-changing book, “Change Your Questions, Change Your Life,” and there are four reasons why asking questions is the route to go.

The first reason is that asking questions helps you learn. The other three reasons are fantastic and will have to be addressed another day.

To Learn and Ask Questions, You Must be Open to New Information

It’s impossible to ask a question when all you want to do is
lecture or dictate. So not only is the question important, its phrasing is also

You see, in this situation, my initial reaction was to absolutely ream this individual. I wanted to ask this question: “How am I going to justify a 2 day travel expense to this client, when 2-3 hours was enough?!?”

While that is a question, it would have immediately set my employee on the defensive. I would have learned very little, if anything. And both my employee and I would have left that meeting angry.

Instead, I took a moment. And then I asked, “Hey, can you help me understand something better? I must not have understood the client’s request, because I thought a couple hour meeting was going to be enough. It took a couple of days, so what did I not undrstand?”
By framing the question this way, I was opening myself up to new information and validating my employee.

Listening is How You Strengthen Businesses and Relationships

Taking those few extra seconds to compose myself and think about rewording the question made all the difference. You see, it turns out that when my employee called this client, they’d asked him to come on site. Their problem was significantly more involved than a 2-3 hour conference call originally described to me. Those 2 days of onsite assistance was, in fact, the right call.

By entering “learner mode” and asking sincere, emotionally neutral questions, I opened myself up to understanding and communicating. Yes, it can be tough to swallow your pride and shelf your initial, emotionally-charged reaction. But those kinds of reactions hurt and destroy relationships.

Asking questions, withholding judgment, and listening, on the other hand, builds relationships – and by extension, your business.

It would be fantastic if it were human nature to interact like this – but it’s a learned habit and culture. As we’ve transitioned our company culture in this direction, it’s made amazing and positive changes within our company and with our clients. It’s been like a software upgrade – RSC 1.0 was running the business on my whim, RSC 2.0 incorporated learner mode, asking questions and gaining consensus as a team, and we’re excited to be releasing RSC 3.0 which will be rallying around a common cause – and to keep moving forward.

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