TBM 31/52: Those Pesky Question-Askers
I know an amazing guitar luthier. Before building someone a guitar, he asks lots of questions. He also insists on watching you play guitar.
The other day, I observed a team working through their strategy. The most experienced person in the room asked LOTS of questions. They were good questions. She also insisted that the team do more research. They needed more information.
But she was annoying the senior person running the meeting.
"Let's table that for now," he kept saying.
"That's a good question! Let's table that for now!"
“That’s a good idea, we should do that.” (overtones of “we will never do that”)
The less experienced people in the room weren't asking as many questions. Frustrated, the question-asker detached. She wasn't getting the information she needed. The less her teammates seemed to care, the more she detached. The more she detached, the more the meeting generated less inspired ideas. The senior person was happy the meeting was moving. Sadly, the meeting ended having squelched the best ideas and best questions.
The luthier and the experienced product maker have something in common. They will make different decisions based on the information they gather. Hence all the questions. Experienced people have lots of questions. Beginners also have lots of questions. It is people in the middle that often don't have lots of questions.
This is a lesson for leaders who work with experienced people.
You have to figure out how to leverage their experience to up-level the whole group. If you silence them because it feels threatening or distracting, you will shut down your most creative problem solvers, and best roll models.
”But if everyone is that experienced, what will they need me for?” says the leader.
A question for another day…