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  • Writer's pictureRobert Stevenson

Correct Answer - But Wrong

Sometimes we ask questions the wrong way or we ask the wrong questions … but either way … we can end up with CORRECT but WRONG answers. Great leaders and managers understand that information is key in making decisions and that questions, when asked properly, can be a powerful aid in soliciting this information.

But sometimes we think we are asking the right questions, only to get answers that are actually right, but of no help to us … and definitely not what we were looking for. Let me give you a few examples of questions teachers asked their students that elicited correct answers, but not the responses the teachers were looking for.

Q: Give a brief explanation of the meaning of “hard water.”A: Ice

Q: Where was the American Declaration of Independence signed?A: At the bottom

Q: How do you change centimeters into meters?A: Take out centi

NO … these were not the answers the teachers were looking for. Question & Answer sessions with employees are an excellent way to solve problems in organizations … “IF” the right questions are being asked. Below is a sampling of a few questions I think all managers/leaders should be asking and have answered each year if they plan on being/remaining successful.

  • What does it take to be successful in our business? (less than 100 words)

  • In your opinion, where are we below average, failing, or need to improve?

  • What is the most important thing we should concentrate on to be successful?

  • What is it that we do best/worst?

  • What is the dumbest thing we do around here?

  • What things/procedures/policies do we have that you think are unnecessary?

  • What suggestions do you have that could make us more profitable/efficient/better?

  • If you could change one thing about our company to make us better, what would you change?

  • If you were our competitor, how would you beat us? Where do you feel we are vulnerable?

To make this exercise in questioning more beneficial and constructive I would like to offer the following three suggestions.

  1. Questions be answered anonymously so there is no possibility of retribution against any responses someone makes.

  2. Tell everyone that their responses need to be specific and explained; saying we need to improve quality or customer service is too vague.

  3. They can attack anything about the company but not a person.

A PROBLEM IDENTIFIED IS A BLESSINGbecause you can’t fixwhat you don’t know is wrong.Asking the right questionswill help you find those problems.


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