Byron's Babbles

Asking Better Questions

Posted in Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development, Questions, Questions? by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on March 17, 2022

Questioning is such a powerful tool. Asking questions is a skill that should be developed and honed. In fact, there are careers such as doctors, lawyers, and police officers, where an important part of the training is in the art of developing questions and asking them. I was reminded of just how important the leadership skill of questioning is when watching a Major Crimes rerun and Lieutenant Louie Provenza (G. W. Bailey) said, “Well, we may not have all the answers, but I think we have better questions.” Before focusing in on answers, we must figure out the crux of the matter: the essential problem or question to be addressed.

When you think about it, most of our day, no matter what we do, is spent asking others for information. Asking questions unlocks learning and is very important in building relationships. What is the key to getting better questions? We need to listen more (no surprise there) and, well…ask more questions. Genius! Research tells us there are several reasons why more questions aren’t asked. Sometimes it’s ego and wanting to look like the smartest person in the room, sometimes it’s being scared of the question being viewed as dumb, or just not speaking up. Sometimes, I just believe we forget the power of a good question.

I am that person that when the conversation or discussion is about done, that will have a couple of questions. Remember Columbo doing that? “Oh, just one more thing…” I really like to listen to what others are saying and slowly process. I even write questions down and sometimes even put numbers by them, representing the order to ask them so I don’t forget the questions. The technique probably is not as important as remembering we should end more sentences with a question mark than with a period. What do you think?

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A Better Question

Posted in Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development, Questions, Questions? by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on February 3, 2022

“Then I thought of a better question.” Dr. Ryland Grace said this in the incredible novel that I am reading right now, Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir. I’m not going to give much more context (because you really need to read the book) than to say he was working on an experiment and to get to the solution he needed a better question, not an answer. This is so true! Answers actually stop learning while questions start it, contextualizing what we don’t know. I love how Weir portrays Dr. Grace as knowing he needs to step it up and come up with better questions. We all need to do this in all we do.

The more we listen, the better our questions become and the more we learn. We need to be like Dr. Grace and not just ask questions, but really work at coming up with better questions. Stopping and thinking of a better question than the first one(s) might just save us from spending too much time and energy trying to solve the first iteration of a challenge with the first answer to the first question we have. That’s both limiting and counterproductive. Taking a moment to think if there is a better question might keep us in learning mode rather than judgment mode. If we’re asking a question, we’re not rushing in to provide the answer, give the solution, or take on the challenge.

When we think of a better question we need to be curious and dig a little deeper. We also need to remember and ask why?, what if?, and how? And one more thing. Did I mention that Dr. Ryland was alone? Well I am now. And…he was telling himself to think of a better question. Research has shown that even asking and answering your own questions helps you learn. To understand and remember. I love this research! I talk to myself and answer all the time. Research has also shown that asking conceptual questions helps us learn better that detail questions. Those of us in education need to remember this for our young scholars.

So, let’s not forget that asking questions is the key to learning. Let’s all keep thinking of a better question.

Reference

Bugg, J., & McDaniel, M. (2012). Selective benefits of question self-generation and answering for remembering expository text. Journal of Educational Psychology, 104 (4), 922-931 DOI: 10.1037/a0028661

Don’t Get Naked At 8:00 AM

Bob Tiede on Virtual LeaderCon

I’ll bet I got your attention with the title of this post. I’ll even bet you might be reading now just to find out what the heck I’m writing about. Well keep reading and you’ll find out. Bob Tiede is one a kind! And, I mean that as the highest of compliments. We had the chance to learn from Bob on Kevin Eikenberry’s Virtual LeaderCon on Wednesday. I have been a big time fan of Bob’s for a long time and I had chance for some personal messaging with him at the end of the day on Wednesday. PRICELESS! Bob Tiede has been helping leaders be their best for a lot of years and I have learned and grown a lot from following his work and reading his books.

His latest work is Now That’s A Great Question. Why am I such a fan? Well, if you know me, you know I love to ask questions. Bob taught us that, “Leadership is not as much about knowing the right answers as it is about asking the right questions.” Brilliant, right? See, there I go asking a question.

“Leadership is not as much about knowing the right answers as it is about asking the right questions.” ~ Bob Tiede

Two Powerful Sets of Questions

During Virtual LeaderCon he reminded us that some of the best questions are the simplest. For example, here are three simple questions leaders can ask:

  1. What do you like best?
  2. What do you like least?
  3. What would you change?

After asking those three questions, Bob will tell you the most important thing to do is – LISTEN! Listening is the most important part. We must be listening to both understand and interpret. Then, we also must do something about what we have been told. Otherwise everyone will lose trust in us.

Here are four more great questions from Bob:

  1. What’s going well?
  2. What’s not going well?
  3. Where are you stuck?
  4. What needs to change?

“…no leader wants to get naked at 8:00 AM!” ~ Bob Tiede

My notes from Bob’s Virtual LeaderCon Session

Don’t forget. What’s your job while asking these questions? LISTEN During Virtual LeaderCon Bob explained to always start with “what was liked best” and “what was going well.” Otherwise you are just starting with the potential for the conversation to become a “gripe-fest” and we have all been there before. Nothing productive ever comes out of a “gripe-fest.” Then Bob gave what I awarded as the best quote of the day on Wednesday: “Start with what’s going well, because no leader wants to get naked at 8:00 AM!” I loved it! His point was for us to start with the good things because that will put us in a much better frame of mind for truly listening to the things that need improvement. Isn’t he awesome at putting things in a way we can understand?

Bob, if you’re reading this, I’ll ask you a couple of questions (would love for you to leave a comment):

  1. What did I get right in this post?
  2. What would you like to add that I left out?

Questions?

Posted in 3D Leadership, Communication, Education, Educational Leadership, Leadership, Questions by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on October 5, 2019

Yesterday at our North Carolina 3D Leadership gathering we went to Phillips Farm pumpkin patch in Carey, North Carolina to get pumpkins for an activity. The activity is not the focus of this post. The focus is on a booth set up at the farm for answering questions. The kiosk literally had a question mark sign on it with the word “questions” (see picture). Everyone in our group was immediately struck by the feeling of being put at ease knowing that we had a person and place specifically designed to answer any and all of our questions. What a simple sign and simple concept!

The young lady at the kiosk was able to answer all our questions and get us set up to get everyone the chance to pick out their very own pumpkins. She even gave us a Dum Dums sucker, telling us that no question was too dumb to ask. But the part that continued to amaze us was how comfortable that sign made us feel when entering the area. There was no anxiety trying to figure out where to go or what to do.

We then began to discuss how we should make kiosks in our schools during parent events or back to school events to make families comfortable asking questions. The question mark sign had empowered us to ask questions. It gave a very different feeling than if there would have been a sign that said “information” or just people standing around to answer questions. It was just comfortable – there is no other way to describe it.

This reminded me of the research that has been done in schools on surveys of climate and culture. Research tells us that if we were only able to ask one question on a survey the most important one would be, “How comfortable are you asking questions in your class?” If students are comfortable asking questions the schools is most likely on an upward trajectory. Therefore, we need to make our classrooms comfortable places for inquiry and empower our students to ask lots of questions.

In fact, as leaders, we need to make every environment we facilitate a safe place to ask questions. Think about the last meeting, professional development session, or gathering that you didn’t feel comfortable asking questions. Miserable, wasn’t it? Then, think about the times when no question was a dumb question and there was a free flow of inquiry. Makes us feel very empowered and comfortable, doesn’t it?

So, let’s start staffing “Questions?” kiosk both literally and figuratively, and creating empowerment through comfort in asking questions.