I’ve written quite a bit about asking questions and listening. I expect that by now, you understand why I’m passionate about asking great questions AND listening to the replies that follow. As leaders, once we understand a concept like this, we’re excited to communicate it to our people, but that can be a challenge. Here’s how I did it…
Several years ago, after our summer peak season business, we had our annual, half-day, company-wide QIC-Day.
It was called QIC-Day because our first company-wide meeting like this was called Operation QIC (pronounced “quick” for Quality is Contagious).
The purpose of a QIC-Day was to emphasize a yearly theme. And that year it was AQLTM for Ask Questions and Listen.
I wanted to introduce AQL to our people because…
- In the past, we had, like other companies, done extensive training on listening skills. However, we had never trained our people on the skills needed to ask good, quality discovery questions. And that was the main reason for our AQL (Ask Questions and Listen) QIC-Day.
- I found people generally tend to and feel more comfortable (in an expedient way) to blurt out statements rather than (in a principled way) ask questions and listen.
When I started to research about asking questions, I was surprised by how little material I could find on this important topic. That is when I sensed an opportunity for me and our people to learn.
Insight: With rare exception, you cannot listen until you ask a question.
Also, good communication occurs when you seek mutual understanding through both asking questions and listening – AQL.
If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame. Proverbs 18:13 ESV
Every leader and employee can successfully learn how to ask questions and listen by using the following two practical activities.
During our AQL (Ask Questions and Listen) QIC-Day, we used two practical activities to help us discover that all of us have lots of room for improvement in the skills of asking good, quality discovery questions and with listening.
As our employees arrived for our AQL QIC-Day, we ask people to sit at pre-assigned table groups of no more than eight people per table to…
- Encourage interaction and discussion
- Enjoy the games we were about to compete in
Two Fun Games
Each game played was designed for our people to…
- Have fun
- Learn to work as a team
- Discover areas that need improvement
Game # 1 – To kick off the meeting, we used an “ice breaker” game to show how well we listen (or rather not so well).
Game # 2 – I’m sure you’ve heard of Jeopardy. It’s one of America’s favorite game shows. Well, we played a similar game that encouraged our people to ask questions.
In the TV game show, the contestants are presented with general knowledge clues in the form of answers, and the contestants must phrase their responses in the form of questions.
The traditional phrasings are:
- Who is/are..? For people
- What is/are..? For things
To give emphasis to our QIC-Day, we called our game QIC-ARDY!
You can click here for a free download of instructions for game # 1 and game # 2, and start having fun while you introduce AQL (Ask Questions and Listen) to your own organization.
At our AQL QIC-Day, we divided our agenda into three parts:
- Ask Questions
- Becoming A Lean Enterprise
1. Ask Questions
Since our greatest emphasis was on asking questions, we started here.
I asked our people to discuss the following questions:
- What is the value of asking questions?
- Why don’t we ask more questions?
Record, Share & Play
Next, each table used their flip chart to record their ideas and answers to the above questions.
Then, one by one, each table was asked to share their best idea for each question with the entire group.
Finally, we all played the QIC-ARDY game for the “Ask Questions” topic only.
After demonstrating an angry customer scenario through role-playing, I ask our people to discuss the following question:
- What listening problems did you observe in this scenario?
Then, we went through the same “Record, Share & Play” sequence and focused on the question and game topic associated with “Listening”.
3. Becoming a Lean Enterprise
Next, we did a presentation on becoming a lean enterprise, and how to identify and eliminate waste in our business. That set the stage to ask the following discussion question to our people:
- In your daily routine, are there activities that are wasteful and do not add value from the customer’s perspective?
Finally, we went through the same “Record, Share & Play” sequence and focused on the question and game topic associated with “Becoming a Lean Enterprise”.
Learning occurs when we listen. And thoughtful questions almost always create opportunities to listen. It all starts with asking questions!
Don’t forget to download the instruction sheets for the games that we played by clicking <here>. I even included some sample questions to get you started!
How well do you ask questions and listen? How well do the people in your organization ask questions and listen? Please leave your comments <here> and share this blog post with a friend and co-worker.