2 min read

Wrong Question, Wrong Answer: Becoming proficient in Asking Questions

Do you ever wonder how the quality of your questions affects the quality of the answers you receive?

“I asked them to do X, and they’ve gone and done Y, sometimes I wonder…”

Ever heard or said that phrase before?

If yes, it’s likely that your questions are structured in a way that’s easy for you to understand, and not the recipient.

What’s the risk of A Poorly Structured Question or Instruction?

It’s incredibly frustrating for those involved, but it’s also expensive, unnecessarily stressful and causes tension in the group.

“You asked me to do X, I did X, and now you’re asking me to do Y”

Here’s a personal example:

A team was tasked with preparing a package of work to be presented to the leadership team. Three senior-level employees spent ~2 weeks working towards what they thought was the desired outcome.

Only to realise 1 week before the ship date and not due to an error on their behalf, the format they were working to was incorrect.

This resulted in a substantial amount of rework and additional resources to support on-time delivery.

People became frustrated and stressed, which caused tension. It was not a fun time.

The situation could have been easily avoided without clarity at the start.

So, What Makes a Good Question?

Put yourself in their shoes, how annoying is it when you get asked a vague question or receive surface-level instruction that fails to take into consideration many pertinent points?

Asking good questions is part of communicating effectively.

The more specific, the better. The more generic, the more opportunity for misunderstanding.

Here are a few questions to help you improve:

  • What is your level of understanding of the topic compared to theirs?
  • What are your objectives compared to theirs? Are they aligned?
  • How could they confuse your message with something similar?
  • Is this too generic?
  • How could they misunderstand this?
  • Can you be more specific?
  • Can you be more clear?

Save yourself, and your team unnecessary work by taking the time to communicate effectively.

Further Resources

Here’s some nighttime reading for you if you want to dive deeper: