This fundamental was written by Ray Santana, who works in Eastern Funding’s credit department as Credit Analyst. Ray has over 20 years of experience in banking and financial services. He graduated from Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, NY, with a Bachelors in Business Administration and Finance.
Fundamental #23 – Ask good questions to get good answers. Learn to ask yourself, “What information is missing, so that if I knew this, the best course of action would become self-evident?”
What better way to begin this fundamental than with defining the word “question.”
A question is a linguistic expression used to make a request for information. The information requested may be provided in the form of an answer.
When asking a question, you have to know what you want as an answer. Understand what you don’t know, and ask yourself, “what information is missing?” When you are asking questions, make sure you put it in the right context while figuring out, specifically, what you do not know.
Once you know what kind of information you need, try to answer your own question first. “Learn to ask yourself,” in other words. Before asking someone a question, do the research yourself. Sometimes we ask another person a question because we might lack confidence, or we have the answer but we are seeking approval. In either case, try to offer a possible solution while presenting a question.
Remember, ask your questions in a manner that results in getting the best possible information in return. Try to ask a well thought out question; be specific about the information you are missing.
Asking a good question requires skill but, like any other skill, it takes practice. Along with practice you need effective techniques. You will be presented with a few techniques that are found to be effective. However we should keep in mind the following phrases: “Be a detective” and “Put on your detective hat.” One might ask themselves what do these phrases mean?
It’s simple: “Ask questions,” (first to yourself and then to others).
“Being a detective” or “Putting on your detective hat” requires each detective to ask questions in order to solve the case. A detective asks both closed and open-ended questions in order to solve the case. The point is one needs to find what information is missing in order for the best course of action to reveal itself.
We always have our detective hats on, not only at Eastern Funding but in our personal lives too.
Our lives revolve around asking questions; from the moment we wake up to the moment we fall asleep. Even when we dream, we have our detective hats on, (if we remember our dreams).
Now, here are a few techniques
- Ask open-ended questions. You will get additional information and insight that you may not have known about beforehand.
- Do not start your questions with the following words: “would,” “should,” “is,” “are” or “do you think.” These all lead to yes or no answers. Begin your questions with the 5 “W’s”: “who,” “what,” “where,” “when,” “why” and even “how.” This will allow people to give your question some thought when answering and even provide more information.
- At times, you can dig deeper and use follow-up questions, such as, “what makes you say that?” or “why do you think that?” This will help you form your own opinion about your question and the answer you’re given.
- Do not interrupt the person with whom you have asked the question. Let them answer it in full, even when you think you are not getting the answer you want. By interrupting them, it might tell the person you don’t value what they are saying; it can also stop their train of thought and direct the conversation in a different direction. Also, people will tend to want to help you more with your questions when you are polite and humble, which, in turn, will help you succeed at work and/or in your personal life.
- There might be times you have asked the same question to different people, whether it was to get different perspectives or maybe the answer was not clear enough. This technique can be interpreted in many ways, and sometimes not the way you might have intended it to be.
Some techniques work better than others. Use your discretion.
“Judge a man (or woman) by his questions rather than by his answers.” –Voltaire
Putting everything in perspective, I believe with the implementation of this fundamental, together with all the other Fundamentals developed by the very dedicated and talented people at EF, we will continue to grow stronger every year. So, put on your “detective hats!”
Next week is the 24th Fundamental: “Manage the business as if it’s your own”.