You, too, Can 'Ask the Right Questions'

Thursday, January 19, 2023

We often hear that a major part of success is asking the right questions. But these don't always come up quickly, and lots of people aren't good at it, or have trouble coming up with them in certain areas.

One way around such limitations comes from Jean Moroney, one of my favorite productivity gurus. She suggests using pre-made lists of questions in the context of one's own thinking.

Of course, the method can be extended to incorporate expert thinking about more specific matters, which she also recommends:

Image by Ana Municio, via Unsplash, license.
Once you learn "thinking on paper," you can take advantage of all kinds of expert advice. One of the tactics I recommend is that you collect sets of questions from experts on different topics. In the Toolkit, I explain how to use these questions and include 31 sets of expert questions on ten topics ranging from goal-setting to dealing with emotional issues and presenting ideas.
Of course, advice in one field can often be applied to another, so a good question can often help with other things aside from its original purpose.

That said, I keep an antenna out for such questions, and ran across a set of them fairly recently at Ask a Manager on the subject of ice breakers at work.

On top of the list being recommended by Alison Green, the short post passing it along shows that asking the right question can sometimes yield unexpectedly useful results.

Green provides the following example from Sarah Lichtenstein Walter, who came up with the list:
Sarah says, "My favorite of these is the favorite/least favorite work activities -- it legitimately helped my team work together better. I hate longer form writing and love doing data matching in Excel. I have a teammate who is the exact opposite. She edited/rewrote a grant proposal I was working on and I created a template for her to manage a process she'd been struggling with!
It is easy enough to see how even just asking oneself the above question can be helpful: It might occur to as a solution to delegate or contract out an activity you dislike or aren't particularly good at. Here, asking it of a group led to a solution and finding help more quickly.

Even if you do nothing with a good set of questions but use them for a given area, you stand to come out ahead. So if the questions aren't coming, it might help to see if they might already be floating around out there.

-- CAV

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