Having the privilege of raising a 3½ year old son exposes James and I to four of my most favourite questions on a daily basis. You’ve probably come across them before – ‘Why, What, Where and How.’ It usually runs along the lines of…
… Why is there only a half moon?
… What does Triassic mean?
… Where does rice come from?
… How did dinosaurs become extinct?
Tom tends to stump us with some of the most delightful and thoughtful questions and we often find ourselves having to resort to Google to help answer some of the more difficult ones. If we don’t have an answer straight away, he’ll generally keep probing us until a satisfactory answer is provided.
And I love it.
For some reason, as we grow older, we tend to accept the norm and stop questioning the world around us. Many of us often become complacent and find it easier to not ask, rather than to ask. Will they think I’m stupid? Is it a dumb question? Should I already know the answer? My view is that we’re way too concerned about what others might think of us if we ask that question.
For that reason, I really want to challenge our team to ask more questions. I believe that curiosity has to be one of the least talked about and most underrated qualities in leadership roles. Simply put to be a leader you need to learn to ask questions. And more often than not, difficult ones.
Tom’s natural curiosity comes from James, and I often observe James in meetings probing (why/what/where/how) until a satisfactory response is given. It’s often simply repeating the word “why” a few times before we, as a team, discover the heart of what we’re discussing. It’s a simple technique, and it gets us where we want to go. The need for curiosity and questioning in a start-up environment is critical to success.
As we grow, we often find old processes are still in place, and rather than challenge them, there’s a tendency to accept the norm. The old maxim “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” certainly doesn’t ring true to me. In a high growth environment, it’s in fact critical to question things that aren’t (yet) broken.
At My Food Bag, James and I want to foster an environment of learning. We want to foster an environment of questioning, of being curious and understanding the reason we do things. So the next time that you stop yourself from asking a question, make sure that you instead raise your question proudly and articulate what’s on your mind! The reality is that probably half of the other people in the room are thinking the exact same thing.