In Problem Solving 101, we provided a simple 3-point structure for going about the problem solving process. Now we’re going to hone in on one of those points: questions are your friend. When we ask the right questions, we lead the other person(s) to the right answers, and also the solution to the problem. There are many benefits to this Socratic approach to any problem, especially when compared with the opposite approach.
When You Ask Questions…
- You must listen – You’ve heard it said that we have one mouth and two ears for a reason, and this scenario in the comedic video is a great example. Sometimes, the person who is experiencing the problem simply needs to vent and talk it through in order to come up with the solution themselves.
- Hear the answers – who should do most of the talking when there’s a problem? The person who knows the most about the problem that is currently in progress should be doing the talking. When you ask a question such as “when did you first notice the problem?” or “What is the main symptom of the problem?”, you allow that person to share their knowledge and understanding.
- Focus on learning – maybe you’re the most experienced person in your field, but most likely not. When there’s a problem, consider it a learning opportunity, and ask questions with the intent of learning, not just the intent of responding. The next time this problem raises its head, you and the other person will know how to solve it.
- Be a guide – would you rather be ordered what to do, or given the autonomy to figure it out yourself, with some guidance? There are some people who prefer to simply follow orders; however, in the world of startups and entrepreneurs, that personality type is not found very often. Those who are there to really move the needle want to do it themselves. Asking questions, instead of just barking out orders, gives the other person the freedom to find the solution with your guidance.
- The solution is not yours – when the other person finds the solution, implements it, and reaps the benefits of the solution, that result now belongs to them. Yes, you were the catalyst, but all you did was ask questions that led the person towards the right answer.
Leaders Ask Questions
That’s what a leader does. A leader asks questions, listens, and empowers his or her team to get to the answer themselves. There is a time and a place for giving orders. Entrepreneurial leaders would do well to ask questions and listen first when they encounter a problem. In the startup world, “encountering a problem” is at least a daily event.