Ask, Don’t Tell

Ask, Don’t Tell

Sending Engagement in the Right Direction

What’s a way for us all to feel invested and connected at work?

No matter where you fall on the hierarchy of business needs, posing a question keeps all diving in instead of peacing out.

The spectrum goes like this:

On one side you have the employee who is terrified of speaking up at a staff meeting. He would rather be elbows deep cleaning toilets than have all eyes on him.

On the other side you have the employee who offers all ideas, thoughts, observations without hesitation. She would offer advice on how best to clean the toilet.

Add in a leader who has to keep the overall balance of interest, responsibility and connection at a flowing productive level.

How to do it? How to do it? (finger tap, finger tap, finger tap)


By asking a question. The way to a more copacetic work environment is by asking questions.

Here we go:

Terrified of speaking in front of a group, large or small?

Ask a question.

Why? It gives you a chance to ease into speaking in public. It allows you to show your interest and possibly knowledge (go you!) on the topic in one fell swoop (thirty eight years to realize it’s “fell” and not “full” – thank you!). It’s a safe play because you’re all in and then just as quickly all eyes are on the person answering the question. Well played! That is, unless there are clarifications needed to your question – in that case – you better have been paying attention and know why you asked the question in the first place! Generally, a safe bet. (60 % of the time, it works every time! wink, wink.)

Need a nudge in the right direction? Here you go!

Overzealous and enthusiastic speakers of the crew?

Ask a question.

Why? You need a break from knowing all of the answers or having all of the ideas. And, no, rhetorical questions do not count. #sorrynotsorry. Observe and give people a chance to catch up. Often times, the introverts of the group take a few minutes to process the information and aren’t as impulsive to spout out the first thing that comes to their mind. Feel the need to speak? Take a sip of water. Take a breath. Take a chill pill. (Note to self!) Help is here!

Head honchos at your wit’s end?

Ask a question.

Why? That excitement of challenging ourselves is something that empowers and uplifts us all. It doesn’t fade away when we graduate from grade school or high school. It grows! By asking employees questions, you are showing that you have faith in them, respect for them, and an understanding of their capabilities. This opens up the channels of healthy risk taking, which results in a stronger feeling of belonging, a decreased fear of rejection, and ultimately a genuine, creative community. Not sure where to start? How about here?

Prospective employees on the path to being gainfully employed?

Ask a question.

Why? It shows that you’re prepared and proactive. It shows that you did your homework and actually researched the position, company or field. (Ideally, all of the above!) Most of all, it shows the type of employee that you are most likely to be – or in reality – already are. No matter if you are at the beginning of your job search or in the thick of interviewing – one quality question can be your skeleton key to many opportunities. Have an interview coming up and not sure what to ask? Here ya go!

So, there you have it. Any questions?

“Sometimes questions are more important than answers.”

– Nancy Willard, American writer