Monday, May 01, 2006

Asking Questions

Who doesn’t know Albert Einstein? This genius — a man who single-handedly transformed our understanding of nature, from the tiniest, invisible particle to the universe as a whole — proclaimed, “The important thing is not to stop questioning.”

I generally like people in business who ask a lot of questions. It tells me they are thinking and probing … trying to get beneath the surface so they can understand as much as possible about a given situation.

Of course, questions have to be raised at the right time. A battery of questions can work if the respondent has dedicated time. But a quick question, and particularly one which might be so strategic and important that the answer could change the direction you take, can be asked almost anytime.

Questions also need to be sensitive. Asking a business question when you are already expected to know the answer can strain a relationship (e.g., "Tell me how you see your position in the marketplace" — on the heels of your firm’s completing an audit of that client). On the other hand, the right question at the right time (prior to an audit) could be one of the keys to winning (e.g., "To what key factor do you attribute your company’s growth?").

Sometimes managers need to ask the obvious question, even at the risk of being redundant, just to satisfy themselves that a fundamental task has been done (e.g., "Did you also mention that to the client?").

Questions can be raised silently or live. If the former, they might be answered through quiet research, via the internet, databases or libraries. With the latter, you get it direct from the horse's mouth. It also affords an opportunity for the respondent to get a feel for your personality and your level of interest, enthusiasm and determination to get it right.

The ultimate aim in business is to win. Good questions that bring useful responses are one of the tools that can help bring victory!

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I came across your blog through various websites and found this one to be very insightful. I think that people often forget to ask questions or ask the right questions because it is so easy to get the answers via quiet research but you need to ask the same questions over and over again to listen to different responses from people of different backgrounds. That is how you learn. Keep up the blogging. It is honest and interesting read!


Friday, May 05, 2006 2:29:00 PM  
Blogger Ken Makovsky said...

Thank you!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006 11:59:00 AM  

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