Stop Being So Binary

When you ask ‘yes/no’ questions, you are often only looking for two possible answers.  Sure – that’s more efficient. And everyone these days wants to be getting things done more quickly.

But it limits the information you get before you even get it! And information is incredibly useful.

Asking different questions helps you become a different kind of person and probably a better leader – a more thoughtful person who can end up with a better outcome.  Not only can you get a better result, you also engage others more effectively, learn more about others and how they think, and even develop your own thinking and problem solving skills.

This non-binary mindset requires that you increase your awareness of the questions you usually ask (the ones that can be answered by ‘yes’ or ‘no’) and mentally pivot to ask open ended questions.

Rather than ‘connecting the dots,’ ask questions like a naïve detective. Imagine yourself as my most favorite pseudo-naïve detective – Columbo (played brilliantly by Peter Falk)

True, he’s a little annoying with all of the questions he asks, seemingly about little minute ‘throw-away’ details but that is how he solved the crime: paying attention and asking questions. Always polite, genuinely nice, he is also very smart and very, very, good at what he does. Truly intrigued and genuinely curious — that’s how an effective problem solver poses questions.

So what happens if you move from a narrowing mindset to an expansive mindset? You move from ‘hurry up/let’s get to an answer fast’ to a ‘let’s learn’ mindset. NOTE: If time is of the essence, go with speedy. If you are eager to find innovative solutions to challenging situations, asking open-ended questions is a better route to take.

Leaders often use an internal sense of time pressure – both real and imagined – coupled with subtle or overt threats or directives to others to take action. If no immediate threat exists, opt for developing a dialogue that support collaborative learning and creative problem solving.

Ask:

  • What is another way to look at this?

  • What is the best thing to do in this situation?

  • What else might happen?

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