Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling

Your highlights:

If employees can’t freely express what they’re thinking, you can’t build a successful team.

What makes a great team is the relationships between team members.Strong communication skills cement these relationships.

4 November, 2017 16:56 Share

Employees are often simply too afraid to share with their boss any issues they might have, fearing that voicing their needs or criticism will reflect poorly on them.

4 November, 2017 16:56 Share

Businesses leaders therefore need to create and nurture an environment where employees feel that they can freely share their thoughts and ideas, no matter what they are.

4 November, 2017 16:57 Share

To build a good team, you need to ask questions that show trust and include and respect others.

Humble inquiry is more than just a strategy for formulating questions; it’s an attitude.

4 November, 2017 18:09 Share

Humble inquiry takes on many different forms, depending on how quickly you need an answer.

When you use humble inquiry, you’re showing that you really want to know what’s in the other person’s mind. When we say “really," we mean it. Humble inquiry is sincere by definition.In addition to this, people will know how much you really care based on subtle cues, such as body language and tone of voice.

4 November, 2017 18:26 Share

“What are you working on?"

4 November, 2017 18:26 Share

For example, if you’re with a friend who is talking about how he’s recently changed jobs, you could ask diagnostic questions such as:What made you decide to make a move?What could have caused this?Why did it make you feel that way?Diagnostic inquiry should also be humble in the sense that the person you are questioning doesn’t feel offended by your queries, and feels their input is valued.

4 November, 2017 18:27 Share

Use humble inquiry to steer conversations and to evaluate their quality.

if you need to push a conversation in a certain direction, you can use confrontational inquiry. This type involves introducing your own ideas in the form of a question.

4 November, 2017 18:37 Share

To ensure that a conversation is based in humility, you might need to focus in on the conversation itself through process-oriented inquiry.

4 November, 2017 18:38 Share

Just “getting things done" stands in the way of good communication, and stymies humble inquiry.

These newly promoted employees are then expected to manage those “below" them by dictating their tasks to them.This approach is known as do-and-tell, and it fosters a culture where those at the top disrespect those who are subordinate to them. Not only is this disrespect unwarranted, it also poses an immediate barrier to good communication within a team.

4 November, 2017 18:47 Share

Our obsession with status or social rank gets in the way of humble inquiries.

In do-and-tell organizations, we naturally demonstrate humility only to those who we feel have control over us in some way. In contrast, when we’re in charge, we treat others with less respect.

4 November, 2017 18:50 Share

Having the right mind-set helps us better communicate, and makes humble inquiry easy.

We naturally don’t like criticism. As a result, most of us make a concerted effort to hide our feelings.This, of course, has consequences. Playing it safe, for example, harms our ability to form relationships, which are vital to humble inquiry.So how can you avoid this mind-set? One way is to intentionally open up to others by revealing something to them about yourself. You will soon find that, having demonstrated that it’s safe to express yourself, it will be easier for the rest of your team to open up.

4 November, 2017 18:51 Share

Final summary

The key message in this book:Good communication relies on good relationships. The practice of humble inquiry helps you demonstrate trust as well as interest in your conversation partner, which, taken together, acts as the underpinnings of a solid, meaningful relationship.

4 November, 2017 18:51 Share

About the book:

Humble Inquiry (2013) sets out the basic principles of the art of asking the right questions in the right way. It examines how your approach to inquiry affects your relationships at the office, your ability to get quality work completed and, ultimately, your success as a leader.

About the author:

Edgar H. Schein is the Society of Sloan Fellows Professor of Management Emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and has received many awards and honors throughout his career. He has also penned a number of books, including Organizational Culture and Leadership and The Corporate Culture Survival Guide.