Hello again. Welcome to the second issue of my bi-weekly note to friends and colleagues.
This time around, here’s one simple idea: To improve employee communication right now, ask more questions.
I’ve given this advice many times, and my inspiration for mentioning it again is a Washington Post article about Larry King, the legendary talk show host who died in January.
As Hank Stuever writes, King was proof that “there’s no such thing as a dumb question.” After all, “most reporters eventually figure out that the dumb question is a powerful tool of inquiry. Kind people know it, too, and still practice the art. In its disarming way, the dumb question . . . turns the interview into a conversation. It invites rather than antagonizes.”
I prefer to avoid the term “dumb question,” but I do support the fact that we communicators need to ask more simple questions. Like how. And what. And, most importantly, why.
Here are 3 more thoughts:
1. Questions (even “dumb” ones) make you look smart, not stupid. I once had a colleague who discouraged team members from bringing up questions “because the client will think we don’t understand.” Um, that’s the point—how are you going to understand unless you ask? My role model for this is Bill Gates, one of the most intelligent people anywhere. When faced with a big problem, Gates always begins by asking two questions. What could be smarter than that?
2. The key to creating interesting interviews—whether in a written article, a video or a podcast—is asking questions that are a bit unexpected. Employees don’t want to hear the same old corporate answers. By trying a different approach, you’ll get fresh perspectives.
3. Need help coming up with interesting questions? There are many sources of inspiration out there. External podcasts, for example. Or TV talk shows. And check out what’s trending on social media. (Plus, here’s a blog I wrote that offers 31 ideas.)