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Starting the conversation:
There are three ways to ask better questions: 1. Be curious and use words wisely; 2. Challenge what we “know”; and 3. Have in mind an idea of what a productive outcome is. Asking questions in a leadership position creates more opportunities.
Host: Jess Dewell
Guests: Elizabeth Bachman, Mickey Desai, Max Irzhak,
What You Will Hear:
There are three ways to ask better questions: 1. Be curious and use words wisely; 2. Challenge what we “know"; and 3. Have in mind an idea of what a productive outcome is. Asking questions in a leadership position creates more opportunities. Increasing adaptability of your teams means incorporating their experiences and ideas to solve problems and create impactful solutions. This also means letting go of the need to have answers … and control. Listen to Jess Dewell share the insights from Elizabeth Bachman, Max Irzhak, and Mickey Desai in a discussion about empowering ourselves and others to ask better questions.
Questions are part of being human, we’re naturally curious.
Values help us find a place to start inquiry from because we know what is important to us (and the same is true when we are inquiring for our business).
Use words wisely to create conversation, think critically and increase clarity.
Different viewpoints, different ways of assimilating and sharing information, and recognizing communication is also a team effort.
Challenge what we “know;” challenge our assumptions.
How you prioritize may be different than the people around you … even on the same leadership team.
Get past the easy answers with intentional questions.
Use silence as a tool to incorporate active listening and more productive conversation.
When we’re building skills, an outside perspective helps keep us focused while we keep the rest of the day-to-day humming along.
Leverage your team to improve clarity by asking better questions.
Shift away from pointless time-wasting meetings.
Use time proactively and prepare for meetings, interviews, presentations, reports … and any planned conversation.
Build your inner quiet, internal communication too.
The more you write and say something the clearer it becomes due to the feedback we receive.
Create a space for what could come to the table if everyone was allowed to contribute.
It is BOLD to seek clarity by asking better questions.
Notable and Quotable:
Mickey Desai: How does anybody prioritize anything? Maybe it’s a sense of urgency. Or maybe it’s something that relates to the larger goal, you’re just putting together a puzzle. And you know which pieces need to go first.
Max Irzhak: When you actually say something out loud, you realize that this is a little messy, and it’s not as organized as I thought it was.
Elizabeth Bachman: So I always start off with what’s the end that you’re trying to reach, and had then work backwards from there? What’s the strategy you need to achieve those results?
ANNOUNCER: Welcome. This is the Bold Business Podcast. Your Business has many directions it can travel, the one true direction of your company creates the journey for you to move toward a new, exciting level. We call this the Red Direction. In today’s program, we delve into one idea. The idea will support you as you work on ever-present situations, including how to stay competitive in a changing market, how to break through the business plateau, and how to anticipate the changing expectations of your stakeholders. Adjustable is your guide, Jess brings you a 20-year track record of Business Excellence, where strategy and operations overlap. Your Path comes from consistently working from this special place is your unique true north. Now, here’s Jess.
Jess Dewell: This concept of questions comes up over and over again. We think about it in relationship to creativity. We think about it in relationship to innovation. We think about it most importantly, about our growth strategy and how we remain relevant to our customers. As their expectations change. And the business landscape changes. I was thinking about why it’s important right now to be considering Why ask better questions. So why now? Why think about asking better questions right now in this time and this place? Well, research has shown for decades that leaders who lead by questioning, always see improvements in different parts of their business, the thing is, productivity may seem to slow down, it may seem to take more time. And yet that upfront time is returned in more productivity higher functioning teams later down the road. The things that come out of the conversations that I have, with Mickey, Elizabeth and Max come down to the benefits that companies see which include not only personal awareness for ourselves in our roles, but also leadership as a coach relationship. Now, that’s a whole thing that we’ll unpack throughout the conversation. And what I think is probably the most important to business sustainability and growth over time, is the fact that the way we problem solve changes, we actually get people with the concepts and the ideas and the information into the discussion. And by asking questions, we can find out what they know and how we make the best decision to stay aligned to our company’s mission. Now, in addition to those benefits, which you will hear come out of why asking better questions is important in the conversation today. There are three ways that we’ll talk about being able to ask better questions. The first is to be curious and recognize that our use of words does create impact, so we must use them wisely. The second is it’s always important to challenge what we quote-unquote, know. And the third is to have an idea of what the goal of the questioning is to do. There’s a purpose there. And when we have purpose-driven conversations, and we lead with questions, we get more of the right opportunities for the right time. Right now. This isn’t a conclusion. This is the path forward. It’s constant progress, that using your company’s true north will move you toward to reach your three-year, five-year even 10-year strategies, not to mention build resilience at the same time. First, we’re going to introduce you to Mickey Mickey descibe is a master storyteller and relationship builder. He’s comfortable with the nuances of social enterprise and relationship management and brings a combination of skill sets to the table from both corporate and nonprofit sectors. As an excellent listener, he makes sure his clients get what they need to succeed. Let’s start out with an insight from basic human nature.
Mickey Desai: I think questioning is a basic element of human nature. Going back to the most basic of questions, which is why am I here? That starts pretty early. I don’t think that you need skills to ask questions. I think you may need skills to figure out how to properly articulate a question and to wrap the right vocabulary around the question. And then of course, listening itself is a skill that gets developed but the actual question in itself is innate.
Jess Dewell: And let’s hear from Elizabeth and I’d like to introduce her into this conversation. Elizabeth Bachman is the executive presentation coach for women, she helps executives master a message that brings funding allies and recognition. Her presentation skills apply to both internal communications as well as speaking at a podium and creating the connections externally with our external stakeholders.
Elizabeth Bachman: The elements of a good question are to figure out what it is you need to find out and then reverse the language and turn that into a question. What do you really need to know? Then just ask, ask the question. The key is to go below the surface. And that’s always the hard part. Because it’s really easy to have sort of standard answers to questions. And to then go deeper and say, but what’s beneath that? Why is that? Why are we thinking that? Why are we assuming that that is a function that I serve for my clients often? And I am fully aware that I tend to when it’s me, I just like I know that so I just revert to the standard questions. So I surround myself with people who are going to make me look deeper, and not just stop at the easy answer.
Jess Dewell: Next is Max being introduced to this conversation. He is a content strategist. He tells stories, he creates content that drives return on investment to create the connections and conversations for companies around the world. And writing a form of communication has always been Max’s passion.
Max Irzhak: So the CEO of headspace cc Morgan, who is an incredible leader, her and I were talking about this exact topic. One of the quotes that she said that really resonated with me was, whenever she’s hiring someone, she said 10 out of 10 times, I would rather have a learn at all than a nodal. And that’s so important because people who position themselves as know-it-alls. They’re a bit of a closed book. They don’t allow themselves to soak up any new information, whether they’re intentionally pretending they’re not they pretend to know everything. And they don’t ask those questions. And they’re always the first ones to offer the answer in conversations. And they, they’re also the people that don’t allow other people to participate in to ask those questions. And I think that that’s very harmful, especially in meeting culture, and specifically, in corporations, where people tend to have a lot of those meetings, things get lost.
Jess Dewell: What we have heard so far at the very beginning of the setup of this conversation, is that Mickey, Elizabeth and Max are all talking about elements of the question that lead to personal awareness. How do we develop our teams and reach our goals, and effectively solve our problems? Those are three of the outcomes that I was talking about just a few minutes ago, at the very beginning, all three of them have also shared something about the importance of how do we articulate our questions, why we’re asking the question, and getting below the easy answer, challenging what we quote-unquote, know, values drive a big part of who we are and what we are attempting to do in the world. It tells us what we care about, it tells us what we will readily give our attention and energy to and in those day-to-day activities, they can influence what information we need, how do we act? What should we search for? And do we even need to ask questions here? So let’s tap into a couple of values that max shares that really relate to our conversation today about asking the best question.
Max Irzhak: There’s two types of values that I try to focus on. One of them is integrity. That one is key to me, you have to ask yourself, did I do the right thing was this truly in the best interest of our customers in the longer term are that customers who are at the end of the day, the number one stakeholders to whom we’re responsible? Even though there are shortcuts in life, many, many shortcuts type people face many times throughout the day and throughout their careers. in the longer term, I think people will be much happier if they do the right thing. And they act with integrity, no matter who’s watching. The other one is just to be courageous, make bold decisions, because many decisions that we make in life are revolving doors, they’re not open and shut. And I think too many people are afraid to make decisions because they think at that time because they don’t have all of the information that it is an open shot kind of door. It’s one-directional that once you walk through it, you are unable to reverse that decision. And that is simply not true. And if you apply those two values to life into your career, I think really good things happen in the long run.
Jess Dewell: Max, even Elizabeth and Mickey and I are not just thinking about this in a vacuum. This goes back years. Years and years. And in fact, I found an article written by jack Zellweger, a Forbes contributor. And he is considered to be an expert in leadership. He actually has said over the course of time that I have been working in studying leadership, there’s one behavior that he would change, because almost every single executive doesn’t ask questions, they stop answering questions. And what they end up doing is just giving the answers. And you know, I agree with jack sender, it’s expected that when we tell people what to do to get their job done, to handle their responsibilities to be accountable for the work given to them, that when they have a question, they go find an answer. Well, that tends to be a sometimes, or a peer of ours sometimes. And then what do we do? If we don’t ask the questions if we don’t figure out the reason that we’re being approached in the first place? And then on top of that, we have an expectation of having to have the answer. We’re stressing ourselves out a little bit every single time that happened, and for our personal well-being and our personal awareness, how do we know we always have the right answer, because we can’t be on the front lines. And we can’t have the insight to every other person in our company’s role and what they’re dealing in facing with. So starting with questions can support that starting with questions can shift the stress away from us and open the conversation to better understand, well, what are the constraints you feel like you’re working with right now? Do you have any idea why this particular thing keeps happening? If you could make it great right now? How would you do it? So incorporating curiosity along with our values, like the two that max shared that he holds? And you know, integrity is one common value amongst businesses, organizations and corporations, that it’s what we do when people aren’t looking? that really matters? And so are we considering? How can we ask more questions along the way, because here’s the deal, there’s never just one problem? And it’s never in a vacuum. So when you know what your goals are, and you know what the agreements in the way work is done in your company happens when you have an idea of what your organization is going to need to move forward. It’s up to you to create the space and foster ideas with your questions. And let’s tap into a little bit of personal awareness, Elizabeth shares about single-focused and multi-focused people.
Elizabeth Bachman: The difference between single-focused people and multi-focus people, which is sort of the classic, single focus equals masculine mode, multi-focused equals feminine mode, although we all do both. And it’s, I know plenty of female executives, especially who are very single-focused. And it’s situational to them. There are times where I’m incredibly single focus. And there are times where I’m multi-focused. So I shy away from the male, male versus female thing. But in terms of single-focused Western business is built on the single focus mode, you do the short report the bullet point, but some of the best ideas come from multi-focus people bouncing ideas around. And where, where I find a lot of the women that I train can be incredibly helpful, especially if they’re multi-focus people, is the multi-focus, people are going to notice things that the single focus people are blind to. And the single focus, people might say, oh, here’s this cool new feature, and we can buy this new software, and it’s gonna be really cool. And we do this wonderful thing. And then the single focus, the multi-focus person is saying, Yeah, but has anybody asked the client if they want this? Before we spend hundreds of 1000s of dollars and hundreds of hours on this? Does anybody really want this? And a lot of what happens to the women that I deal with is, they’re the ones who are saying that and the man who are so excited by this cool new idea, will slap them down. And so a great deal of what I do is how do you navigate the space in between, so that you can make your point? If you’re not being heard, how do you shape the way you’re saying something so that you’re saying it in a way that they can hear it.
Jess Dewell: For each and every single one of us, the importance of our personal values comes through, because we will all find ourselves in situations where we are not heard, we’re not understood, or we feel like we’re getting the short end of the stick. And guess what? That may be true when we start Every communication, when we ask every question from a place of our personal values, we know our way forward. And then as part of the leadership team in your organization to understand what the current short term initiatives are, what those medium-length initiatives are, and what those long term goals are, and how the strategy connects to each one of those, because it’s in that second layer, that you must have as an executive to handle the ambiguity to make decisions that move you toward your true north. Always, that’s what will reinforce the priorities that have been set.
ANNOUNCER: You were listening to the Bold Business Podcast, we will return to the show soon. But first, I want to take a moment and give you a peek into what additional services and solutions you could access to Fast Track Your Business. This program was created to develop your capacity on demand by sharing insights, tips, as well as lessons learned by business leaders, unedited and uncut. And we don’t just stop there, there are three additional benefits to help you reach your growth goals. You’ll also have unlimited access to one hearing tips and insights to develop yourself as a leader to get better results more often, to experiencing viewpoints from many different business leaders in three receiving frameworks to build core competencies. And to more effectively focus on business growth and leadership. altogether. The Fast Track Your Business program will allow you to face uncertainty, anytime, anywhere, you can access what will become your most personal tool in your toolkit by going to Fast Track Your Business today.com. Now, back to Jess.
Jess Dewell: Let’s ponder a little bit with Mickey and Max.
Mickey Desai: How does anybody prioritize anything? Maybe it’s a sense of urgency. Or maybe it’s something that relates to the larger goal, you’re just putting together a puzzle and you know which pieces need to go first? I I make the border and then I fill in from there.
Max Irzhak: It depends totally on the context, where you are in your career, where you are in the conversation that you’re having, is that person looking for certainty? Are they looking for guidance. And if I’m, for example, an intern straight out of college, I just joined a new job. I think it’s natural for that person to not have all the answers. That is the best part of the journey in a person’s career, because that is the opportunity where you are allowed to make all of the mistakes that you want. You’re expected to ask all of the questions as you evolve in your career. Unfortunately, I think that that dies a little bit because people are no longer expected to ask questions. They’re expected to give answers.
Jess Dewell: Notice all of the questions that come up, as the conversations that I’ve had with Max with Mickey with Elizabeth show up in the podcast today. Each of us showed up to the conversations very curious, each of us was willing to say we didn’t always have the answer. And each of us understood that the purpose of questions was to get us from where we’re at to where we want to go. It’s interesting because I recently read an article from Alison Brooks and Leslie john, who published through Harvard Business Review, they were talking about asking better questions. One of the things that they referenced is something so classic that sometimes we forget about Dale Carnegie, Dale Carnegie advised way, way, way back in 1936, in his book, How to Win Friends and Influence People that we should ask questions the other person will enjoy answering, I find that fascinating, because that’s partly being a good listener. So we know what questions to ask to elicit, however, with that same intention that he brings to the table, we can recognize that we’re better together. And that particular awareness can shape the conversation by listening allow asking the question, that might lead to the right question that might lead to more conversation that might lead to whatever the outcome of asking the question in the first place makes happen? are we helping somebody be more certain? are we helping understand what the options are? are we helping figure out a short-term solution to a problem? Are we considering a way forward that has to be evaluated with our strategic plan? So quit having to know all the answers, and it takes time to do this time requires thinking and you know, me, I’m a big fan of the head brain between our ears, the heart brain, as well as the gut brain to come to the thinking place where we can evaluate what will serve right now maintain momentum and attract and realize the right opportunities.
Elizabeth Bachman: The difference is asking a client is getting them to think deeper. So what do you really want because my business is strategic speaking for results. So I always start off with what’s the end that you’re trying to reach, and had then work backwards from there? What’s the strategy You need to achieve those results. Somebody will say, Well, I just want to be promoted. Okay? If you’re going to get a promotion, what comes from that? I work mostly with corporate women in high-level women in companies or law, both internal and external. They’ll say, Well, I just want to be a VP. And nobody, let’s be be a VP or I keep bumping against this glass ceiling. I have lots of possible strategies for breaking through that glass ceiling. So we have to explore the questions for that. And the other half of it is, where are you not showing up? not speaking up? Where are you falling into the love patterns that we are socialized to the patterns that, especially as good girls, good girls, don’t brag? My mom used to say that to me all the time.
Jess Dewell: We all have things like that, that we were told by our parents, haven’t we maybe it was our guardians. Maybe it was our friends. Maybe it was somebody who we accepted as a mentor or a teacher, or sought us out to be their mentee. Now, how much of that did you really listen to? And how much of that are you going to overcome to step into allowing your business take the steps necessary to fail faster and bounce higher? This is that inner work, inner work happens to each of us as a human-provided we take the initiative. And guess what, it’s the same for our businesses. The thing is, they’re external from us, they are inert, they only exist because we’re there. And so sometimes prioritizing the inner work needed to foster great business, to encourage behavior, and actions and thinking and outcomes that really serve our mission is something that seems crazy and off the wall, and hard and time-consuming. And none of us have time because we’re so busy. Well, that is a choice. Let’s take some time. And listen.
Mickey Desai: My backgrounds in counseling psychology, I’ve struggled with this. I mean, this was a major struggle for me, even in grad school, even surrounded by an environment that was supposed to foster the art of good listening. And it’s a hard thing, I think, to nail down the actual specifics of what it means to be a good listener. I think that the first challenge that most of us have to overcome is to quiet ourselves and to get used to the quiet. I think a lot of us are going through our days, and we don’t like the personal quiet, we distract ourselves with all sorts of things that bring in external noise. If you’re going to be a good listener to someone else, then you have to filter out your own noise in order to get there that starts the answer to the question. It’s not just comprehending the words that are coming out of someone’s mouth, its meaning its inflection. It’s a number of different things, beyond just the vocabulary that makes for good listening. But, But in order to get there, you have to get used to your own personal quiet. I think it’s a constant re-education of yourself. Because we live in a society, as you said, where people like to fill those silences, even in your workplace, you can never have a downtime in many places, you have to think quick and move quickly. And there’s an entire strategy built around something called agile, most people don’t think that means nimble. Most people simply think that means fast, we need to stop doing that. And the effort to get away from that is an element that requires constant practice.
Jess Dewell: Whatever thoughts popped into your head during the silence that Mickey and I took is indicative of exactly how comfortable you are with silence in conversation today. And to Mickey’s point, agile has been made synonymous with fast. And sure that’s a part of it, we want to get to something faster, so we can adjust and make more iterations in a shorter period of time to speed up that iteration process. The thing is, if we only do it for speed, to make his point, we miss out on the opportunity to challenge what we know because we’re not pausing long enough to recognize did we ask the right question in the first place to do that challenging of what we quote unquote, no, practice, practice it everywhere you can silence, even in a conversation, there is an element of processing what was said and letting silence be present. So that we can formulate our response after the other person we’re talking to has finished their thought.
Max Irzhak: When someone is listening to the other person speak, especially if it’s a long-winded conversation, they find themselves and I also find myself thinking of my response. And when you do that, you’re no longer actively listening. That person becomes a passive voice in the background. And that is so unfortunate because that person is opening up to you. There are those little nuggets that, that I think sit at the heart of every conversation. And those are the strings that I like to pull on when I’m interviewing people or when I’m just simply having a conversation. And if you’re not actively listening, and you’re only waiting for your chance to talk, that conversation is going to suck most of the time. Unfortunately, most people they feel like their voice is the one that matters. As a result, they can’t wait to share that. This is why I love being the host of the podcast for her for NSLs because I’m not in the hot seat. I already know the questions that I’m going to ask. So now, I can just sit there and I can wait for all of their wisdom to come out. And then because I’m actively listening, I can actually ask follow-up questions, and that is when those beautiful conversations happen.
Elizabeth Bachman: This is why you’ve got to get someone from the outside who’s got a better perspective on it. The basic lesson is our perspective is not necessarily the same as the people we are talking to putting yourself in the shoes of the other person. What is it that they’re going to care about is what makes the difference?
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Jess Dewell: This and more is what goes into asking a great question. And for our takeaway today is to understand that putting attention and focus on asking questions, better questions, questions that go deeper than the easy answers as Elizabeth shared, using silence, as Mickey suggested, and Max talking about doing the intentional work ahead of time, so that there is a goal in mind for the conversation, whether an interview, whether responding to a problem, whether answering an email, whether preparing for a presentation, those tips are incredibly important to do the best work to move the company forward. And to keep the conversation going, developing, the way work is done and the true north of your company. an outside perspective is also always helpful. Because we’re in we’re in the day-to-day, even when we take a pause for a present retreat that protected executive time, so that we can work on our role on our business, on the things that are facing our teams. When we really get pressured some of the really good habits that just take a lot of time get cut. That’s what we want to avoid. And so the awareness of consciously saying I’m going to take less time now means that we were taking important time before. And sometimes that outside perspective is exactly what’s necessary to help recognize and help you practice and get that worked into your habits, more opportunity, more threat, more weakness and more strengths to
Mickey Desai: a reason why you need that diversity is to answer exactly all those questions, because someone will be like, Oh, we have to explain to ourselves why. And someone else on that same board will say no, we have to explain to ourselves how there’s no wrong both of these statements are completely valid.
Jess Dewell: How about the when and the where and the what? Somebody on the board may ask those questions to all valid, how you show up to work with them, address them, discuss them comes from that intentional time thinking ahead, what might come out of here, why is my purpose for being here today in this moment, so that the elements of every different viewpoint can be worked in to create the best way forward right now? Because remember, decisions are never set in stone decisions help us move forward right now gain momentum right now move obstacles right now. And as long as we make sure that we’re not deviating too much from our true north, we know even though we might take a journey here or there, we’re on the right path forward.
Elizabeth Bachman: As we said before, it starts with make it about them, our old friend with me, what’s in it for me? What’s in it for them. One of the things that I find even if you’re inside an organization, and you’re communicating with your team, and you say here’s the problem, here’s the solution. Here’s the problem, here’s the solution. They aren’t going to care unless you say here’s the solution and this is the benefit to you. It’s the old Tried and True formula of problem solution benefit, we should be doing this. Because if we do, so we will get a better result. And we won’t be working 12 hours a day, maybe we’re just working five days a week for a change. It’s better for the company. But it’s also better for you specifically,
Jess Dewell: always inviting the ability to have something that bubbled up that may not fit into the agenda, something that somebody really wants to say, and there wasn’t truly a place that they thought it fit into the dialogue, the conversation or the meeting is important to ensure we’re setting the stage that we want to keep the conversation going, even if it is impossible, or not the right time, or a distraction, whatever comes up, at least we know what’s on the mind of those people that are around us. It brings everybody together, it strengthens the fact that we want diverse points of view, and that the people who we surround ourselves with can be a resource of information for us.
Max Irzhak: Asking questions like is there anything that you would add I think are very critical, primarily because it allows that person to be part of the conversation to feel like they contributed to the final conclusion. And that’s really important, because you never want to be in a position where you are simply preaching and you’re expecting people to just latch on to that idea and run with it and be right there with you in the trenches, that’s really difficult to do, because that person many times will not carry the same passion that you have for that argument for that position. So by simply asking them things, like, Is there anything you want to contribute to this and forces them to be part of that connection? And I think that that’s really important in terms of what questions you’re actually asking. It really just goes back to the context. What are we trying to get out of this situation? Are we trying to unravel things? Are we trying to be philosophical? Are we trying to just share information and understand what the other person is thinking? So I think questions are very contextual. But at the heart and soul of every question is curiosity.
Jess Dewell: Oh, yeah, one of the ways to ask better questions that we set out at the beginning, was the first one. Number one, be curious and use our words wisely. To create conversation, think critically, and increase clarity. The second one is challenge what we quote-unquote, no. And the third one, have a goal for the outcome from the questions that will be asked this is important, because that second and third way, help us recognize that we don’t have to communicate alone, we can seek out the help of others to not only help us become better communicators, as an individual, also, to help each other get the points across the communication that can occur. The dialogue, we want to have the questions that are important to ask all become possible with teamwork through allies.
Elizabeth Bachman: I talk about allies all the time, surround yourself with people who can give you feedback. Be aware, if you’re going to react, one of the things in the classic feminine mode is to take it personally. If somebody gives you a feedback happens in a marriage, it happens in a family, it happens at the office. Feedback should just be information.
ANNOUNCER: Remember, feedback should just be information.
Elizabeth Bachman: One of the hard parts, we default, to catch ourselves when we fall into a conversational habit, especially since girls are socialized to say excuse me, I don’t know if this is worth saying. But here’s my idea, or sorry to interrupt, but, but instead of just saying the idea, I actually had a wonderful conversation of a former client called me up, we worked together for about eight months last year, she called me up and she said, I have to tell you, I was just on a high-level meeting. And there were two other women that there were three of us were female. And the other two women are both PhDs. This is a scientific company. They’re both scientists with PhDs, they’re high-level thing. And each one of them on the zoom call, at some point, said something like, well, I don’t know if this is worth saying, but or I don’t know if it’s Can I, can I interrupt but and so I was private messaging them saying, No, no, no, you just deep positioned yourself right away at the beginning. Just say the idea. You’re a Ph.D. You’re a director at this company. It’s habits.
Jess Dewell: We all have communication habits, that we could benefit from the outside perspective, from that extra set of eyes from somebody who we can trust to help us get better. When we don’t have a purpose for the questions, when we choose to not dig deep to challenge what we quote-unquote, know, we come across as wishy-washy. And so a good intention of asking more questions, even better questions with the wrong focus with the wrong preparation or a lack thereof, it means that we end up having meetings about meetings about meetings. And if you haven’t gone to download the ebook, called from chaos to control, I suggest you do that, because uncontrollable meetings are actually we know the most productive. They’re stats about that all over the place. So bringing in better questions, thinking ahead. And planning, which is what chaos and control is all about is something that you can take advantage of right now. And it’s a step-by-step structure. So go to Red Direction, calm and get that download. But back to what Max is going to share. Next, we have to be very careful, because sometimes we lose our voice, sometimes the power is not in the person conducting the meeting, sometimes meetings are happening. And everybody’s been rushing in to our meeting from a meeting without even having a tee time break, or a bathroom break, or a step outside and collect our thoughts break, or I had five calls, and I haven’t had a chance to respond or even know who’s called me. And because there was no break. All of those things create distractions. And especially as we learn to be more online to be more engaged with household disruptions, or remote work, disruptions that we still need everybody engaged, active and prepared, we can impact our meeting culture, Max, share some ideas.
Max Irzhak: One of the things that bugs me the most about meeting culture is when people do not have agendas for meetings. And that is a spectrum in itself. I’ve been at places where you’re going through your day, and you see, wow, there’s no meetings, this is good, I can actually get some work done. And then all of a sudden, that meeting pops up three hours from now you’re like, Okay, let me see what’s in it, you click into the calendar invite, and there’s nothing there. It has an obscure title, and it has absolutely no agenda for what we’re going to accomplish. To meet that is the bottom bottom bottom of a terrible spectrum. Because you cannot come to that meeting prepared in any way. Because you don’t know actually what you’re going to be talking about, then you have the type of meeting where people arrive. And it’s supposed to be a meeting about something, but it’s very loosely structured, okay, there’s still something in the calendar that’s written down, and you can sort of anticipate what you’re going to be talking about. But then it falls apart. Because the person that’s supposed to be guiding that meeting is not playing that role effectively. And they either allow the loudest voice in the room to take over, or they don’t have a path or a goal that they’re trying to achieve throughout that meeting. And I think that that’s key, it’s having a very set, limited number of goals in every meeting have a very clear agenda. And on top of that layer, the fact that what screams success at the end of this meeting, how will we know that we achieved what we needed to do. Because if you don’t have those ingredients, going into a meeting, then you’re going to have a very loosey-goosey approach and things are going to fall apart. People are going to talk about anything and everything and they’re going to be on their phones, actually, that’s another thing to add, do not allow phones in meetings. On top of that, what I’ll also add from stand-up culture is force people to remain standing during meetings. Because if you combine people not having phones, and being forced to stand, all of a sudden, people are very active. When you’re not leaning on anything, when you’re not sitting down, your body is physically forcing you to be active to be mentally present, to know that at any moment, somebody can call on you that you have to be part of the conversation. And now all of a sudden, people are actively listening in many ways. It’s training people through this force behavior, how to be present in the meeting, how to ask the right questions. It’s not the job of the people that are in charge of culture to do that, right. It’s people in leadership positions.
Jess Dewell: There are some things that you can do to start practicing and hold yourself accountable to building this habit of asking better questions. The first step is to have much more self-awareness. When am I asking questions and when could I be asking more questions? Just an awareness and that’s it and start getting it into your consciousness as you show up to each door knock phone call, email meeting interruption, you can recognize Can I ask them a question to get them on the right track? Do I really have to know the answer here? Once that is in your awareness, the next step to create and hold yourself accountable to ask asking better questions is to recognize after the interaction, when you think to yourself, Oh, I should have asked this, or Oh, what about that? Then you’re recognizing, okay, great. I showed up. I asked questions. I got them on their path. They feel really good. They’ve answered the question and contributed to the solution. Yet, there could have been more. And I’m noticing what the more is. And as you keep doing that, those elements of more will actually show up in the dialogues that you’re having. For presentations, for email reports, for in-person reports, or meetings, knowing ahead of time, the objective of how the time is going to be spent, automatically shifts, meeting time, into productive decision time. Whenever you’re ready, come back and reference this part of this podcast. Because you have the elements you need to just start on your own, working toward creating accountability for yourself to ask better questions. Remember how I said we needed time to be able to plan to focus to be intentional about what we’re trying to accomplish. Elizabeth and Max have great points to share about that.
Elizabeth Bachman: Where to start, is to schedule a time to think take time, if you’re journaling, meditating, writing, set up a brainstorming session with a buddy, find someone that you can chat with. I know that both you and I are verbal processors, both you and I figure out what we want to say as we say it, we may not have the idea, until we start to say it. This gets me in trouble in German, by the way, because I tend to start a sentence without knowing how I’m going to end it. But in German, the verb comes at the end. So you actually have to keep your mouth shut and not start talking. So you know what verb you’re going to end with gets me in trouble in German all the time.
Mickey Desai: I think there are different kinds of quiet, but I think that all of them are necessary, I think that you do have to get out and get some pure silence from time to time. And I mean, literal silence. And similarly, you do have to go out and zone out even if you’re just going for a walk and getting into that zone with that’s the hardest thing for me to do. Because when I start doing the walk thing is, is when I realized, Oh, these are the 20 things I forgot to do this morning. So I need to remember those before I get back home.
Jess Dewell: And the cool thing is, if we forget them, before we get back home, how important were they really did something else that we deemed to be a priority, or that we remembered actually took care of two or three of the other things that we forgot to remember, it’s something to consider to-do lists are great, we know we’re making progress, we know we’re getting certain tasks done. And the cool thing about a to-do list is sometimes an item creates more and more tasks. That’s when it’s a great time to pause, take a walk, do I really need to be doing this? Is it the right thing to get us to where we need to go? How come we didn’t figure all of this extra work was going to be a part of this thing we’re doing? The thing is, with every question we ask every pause we take every quiet time we have every brainstorm we do, whether we’re thinking out loud, or thinking to think we get better.
Max Irzhak: When you hear yourself explain something to someone, you realize that while this was sitting very nicely in my brain, you know, very neatly, when you actually say something out loud, you realize that this is a little messy, and it’s not as organized as I thought it was. And the next time you say it, it’s a little cleaner. And then the next time you say it, you’re actually able to teach it to someone, they’re able to grasp it right away. And you know what questions they’re going to ask and you anticipate them in your response. And you sort of fill those gaps that you didn’t even know existed. And I think one of the fundamental aspects of asking questions, and being a good listener is, we don’t know what we don’t know, you have to do the exercise. And just like training any muscle, you have to practice it over and over again. And you have to be almost a scientist, when you explore questions. Instead of pretending that we know everything, you have to apply the scientific method. And this is one thing that seesee also brought up in our conversation, instead of trying to Bumble your way through a response. First of all, say, I don’t know, but let me find out. Secondly, it’s allowed yourself to use the scientific method, start with a hypothesis, test that theory and make the bold decision to actually go out and put that theory to the test. At the end of that equation, don’t be afraid to be wrong, because a lot of people they’ve been punished throughout their life for being wrong, like our education system is set up in a way where if you don’t choose the correct multiple choice response, you get dinged on your test, and you’re punished and when you do that, from K through 12. You do that throughout college. When you do that through graduate school, you’re trained to always be right, otherwise you’re going to be dinged. That is a very bad way of educating people. What that does is like a teenage pimple, it squeezes the Curiosity out of you You lose that curiosity that you had as a toddler and as a child. That’s very unfortunate, because as adults, curiosity is one of the most important things to getting to the bottom of things. It’s about the pursuit of the truth.
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Jess Dewell: been hearing from Mac or Zack, Mickey Desai, Elizabeth Bachman. And we’ve been talking about how do we empower ourselves to ask better questions. Because better questions get us to clarity, have a business that becomes more adaptable that can respond to unknown situations that uses the knowledge and experience of everybody who is facing a particular issue problem or opportunity. In this we’re talking about a lot of soft skills. And I’m gonna use the word love in terms of self-love, self-love of grace with ourselves, and an understanding that we will make mistakes as we begin to ask different questions as we begin to be curious and use our words wisely to create conversation to think critically into increased clarity to challenge what we think we quote-unquote knew to have a goal for the outcome by asking questions, which means knowing when the right questions are to be inserted, or added or sought out through dialogue and some other questions. First, rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat. Bring in that self-love, progress, skill, building movement toward mastery of asking better questions for clarity happens.
Mickey Desai: Think about it. Patience does require practice, it goes back to the other notion of we as a culture don’t give ourselves time to be patient. And that just breeds more in patience. Patience is something that can only exist in company. Well, I guess it’s not true. You have to be patient with yourself as well. But listening is something that only becomes important. Well, no, I guess that’s not true either. Because you have to listen to yourself, you see where I’m going with this.
Jess Dewell: This is useful in every part of our work lives, our business lives, our home lives, our personal development life. I want to say thanks, Mickey, Mickey, that was a fantastic set of questions. And then let’s take it one step further. This concept of experimenting and adapting with a story that Elizabeth shares.
Elizabeth Bachman: I remember early on in my career, having read an article about a very famous CEO, who was the CEO of a company I would have liked to work for who told the story of a young man who came up to him and just was very direct and said, I love this company. I want to work for you. I wish you’d hire me and how much she liked that and gave this young man job and that was that was it? Well, I thought. I’m going to try that. I was with a group of people and they knew him. And he knew my name, but he didn’t really know anything about me. So I went up to him. And I said, Sir, yes, I love your company. Here’s my hand, I would like to work for you. And he looked at me an absolute horror and walked out of the room. And the friend who had introduced me looked at me and absolute horror, and said, How could you and she walked out of the room. And I retreated into my shell and figured out some time later that I had broken the pattern. That was something that a guy could do. A girl can’t man can do a woman can’t. There’s no value judgment one way or another. It is the expectations of the person you’re talking to. They all expect that sort of language from a man that is not expected from a woman. There are some women who can get away with it. I was never really good at that part. So I had to learn other ways of getting around that. And I never did work for that company. That was it. I bet I just absolutely killed it. I had to figure out how to do it as me.
Jess Dewell: Had to figure out how to do it as me. The way we’ve always acted has set an expectation in those around us to interact with us vs and observe us. When we choose to try something new and do something that is seemingly out of character. We learn what doesn’t work for us. We learn where societal norms show up. We learn where the way that we work together has some unwritten agreements built-in and they may extend this beyond accompany into society. And here’s the deal. All that is really important to know how it matters. And what the impact is for the conversation we’re having today about asking better questions is that when we fall down, or we buck the system in some way, when we show up, and we have a response that was totally unexpected, it’s great if we can figure out why like Elizabeth did. The thing is, it doesn’t matter. It means let’s keep at it was a little inauthentic. Was I following a prescribed list that I know list of steps that I know worked for somebody else, but isn’t obviously going to work for me? How many of those things have we ever signed up for right that follow my 10 steps, and this will happen, whatever this benefit is that you really want, they do work, when we have enough in common with the person who created the steps. And that’s one of the things that this podcast actually does really well brings in ideas brings in thoughts because it honors your uniqueness, your business’s uniqueness through the culture and the way the business is done. And the unique opportunity that the way your work is done can make the biggest difference in this world, you can reach the outcomes that impact the world, or the outcomes and your three, five and 10-year strategies. So not only do we give ourselves grace and recognize, we may mess up and we may follow somebody prescribed steps and it didn’t work for us. And that’s okay. That’s okay. The thing is, we also want to allow others to make mistakes. And when we are able to witness them have non-judgment about them recognize that they’re on a path of self-improvement to they’re on a path of developing a set of skills to and how can we support and motivate them for their journey that intersects with our journey?
Max Irzhak: I think the stakes are totally fine. They’re expected, I don’t believe that people should be punished severely for making mistakes. But if you make a mistake, you have to ask yourself the question of why did I make this mistake? What made it a mistake? You have to as a leader, be willing to sit down with that person and answer those questions, truthfully, allow yourself to be vulnerable, and break down that information divide so that you allow transparency to be on both sides, because nothing is worse when one person is operating under information that you do not have access to. And that is a very difficult situation that unfortunately happens very frequently, where people do not work with the same information, but they’re expected to work towards the same goal. I think that that’s one of the problems that’s at the heart of most organizations is that there’s not enough transparency, there’s a lot of competing goals. And people just do not ask the right questions to unravel where the gaps are.
Jess Dewell: I’d say that’s the basis for a lot of the unwritten agreements that occur in companies. We all have these ideas, we say yes to too many things at a time, and then it trickles down and everybody has too much to work on. And then nothing is getting done. And we all wonder why. And so that pause, that reflection, that willingness to dig in and say why, why aren’t we getting these things done? Are we too overburdened? Do we have competing priorities comes down to our willingness to actively listen, because sometimes it requires an organizational behavior change, to start to see the results of the individual time that you and I take to ask better questions, instituting different patterns of interaction and behavior support, where we want to go in a way that utilizes the power already within us.
Mickey Desai: That is empowerment. At one point in my life, I kind of tried to figure out what empowerment really was. Because what does the word mean? The word means giving someone power, I struggled with that, I don’t know that I’m giving anybody power. I think everyone already has all the power within them to do various things, as a so-called leader or coach or listener or whatever, all I’m doing is helping them open the doors to their own efficacy. And if that’s empowerment, great, but they already had the power.
Jess Dewell: Tap into that, and allow time to pass so that these new habits can develop.
Elizabeth Bachman: Okay, this worked for this person, but not the other person. Let’s try something else. So you keep trying things until you find something. I have a wonderful client named Genie. She’s a senior partner in a law firm. She’s the only female senior partner. She’s responsible for the income from half the United States. Thank you very much. Just a little itty bitty job. And she first hired me. She said, I don’t care about speeches. I do speeches all the time. That’s easy. What I want is I want the men to hear me we’re on the international conference calls and nobody ever pays attention to me and allies was one of the strategies that we used third party validation and rolling a couple of people who liked her and who were on these calls. So that if she were to say something and be ignored, the ally would say, Jeannie just had a good idea. Did you hear that?
Jess Dewell: Clarity, communication, knowing what to go after, recognizing that, it’s important to hear all of the ideas that were asked for is more than a one-person job. It is a team job. It is a leadership team job. And it is bold to go after asking better questions.
Elizabeth Bachman: What’s bold is to talk back is to calm down the voices that are trying to keep you safe, the voices that are saying stay small, it’s bold to step forward and say, I have something to offer, I am going to deliver results for you. So that’s bold, that takes courage.
Jess Dewell: It’s bold, to take the time to ask better questions.
Mickey Desai: There’s two things that I’m thinking of one, to actually slow down and listen is not something the rest of the world is programmed to do, especially in the Western world. So I think it’s bold to make us change in yourself to try to do that. And the other thing I think of is that requires a certain amount of boldness and courage to do the things we’ve talked about in terms of getting used to your own quiet, and getting used to moving away from the things that the Western world has told us we shouldn’t do. Like, I know people who are afraid to go to the movies on their own, like why, why not just go and enjoy. Or you could do a turn on the television, and zone out in front of the television. So why not go to the theater and zone out in front of the big screen, pandemic aside. But we teach ourselves that certain kinds of things are not accepted when you go into your car. And your first thing you do is you turn on your Bluetooth and you crank up the tunes are something I think it requires a certain amount of courage to take a look at yourself within your own quiet.
Jess Dewell: It is bold, to ask better questions and seek clarity.
Max Irzhak: Its vulnerability. It’s allowing yourself to publicly say that you don’t have all the answers, and that you’re willing to gather information from multiple sources from multiple people who have diverse thoughts, who have different lenses that they’re going to bring to the solution. And it’s allowing yourself to work as a team and actually let people be themselves. So I think that we can work from the top-down as a leader allowing people to be themselves and truly bring themselves to work every single day. I think it’s key because too many organizations force people to put on a uniform and strip their identity away and work under the guidelines of what you think is right as a leader. And I don’t think that that’s the right way of doing it. If you allow people to be themselves and to bring their beliefs, their processes, their free-thinking to the job and to the position, you’re going to get remarkable answers and remarkable results.
Jess Dewell 58:00 Max or Zack, Mickey Desai showed up today. They brought real-world examples. They helped develop the conversation, they asked questions along the way. They didn’t need to be in control. They’re excited to see how this conversation continues. They’re willing to be vulnerable and look at their own personal development and personal awareness, their own relationship to being coachable, and the ability to coach others, as well as asking questions to get to the problem to be solved. Don’t forget to take away the three ways to ask better questions that we explored in this podcast today are to be curious and to use words wisely. Because when we do that we create conversation, think critically, and increase our own clarity to move our companies forward. The second thing is to challenge what we know, quote-unquote, we don’t have all the answers, so why not accept it and see what happens when we wait to hear what other people have to bring to the table and information to share that is as good or better than what we started with. And three, every time you ask a question to go a little deeper, find a little more clarity, have a goal for the outcome. These approaches will help you create the best solutions right in the moment. And remember, decisions are not set in stone. So when we take the time to find a solution for right now, even if it’s not ideal, even if it might feel in the moment or seem or the data doesn’t align with it. If it solves a problem right now, it doesn’t have to be forever it has to be for right now. It’s in those moments you are fully taking stock and creating the path forward. So questioning, developing yourself developing others’ ability to question and be part of the conversation, getting an outside set of eyes, changing some behaviors and key areas to Improve the conversation dynamic, the true north that you have set out for your company to follow. Until next time.
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