By April Loebick
What is a culture of questions? (hah, see what I did there?) A culture of questions is a methodology used to increase employee engagement and promote psychological safety through the use of various types of questions. It opens a gateway to help us satisfy that need for human connection. It’s a way to build empathy. What it isn’t, is a way to be nosy and push your employees into answering questions that they don’t feel comfortable sharing.
There are many different ways you can help to create and encourage a culture of questions in your company, from everyday conversations, to enhancing meetings, to team-building and so much more.
In this series, we’ll explore several ways you can incorporate asking more questions into your company culture, and how you can build a most trusting and psychologically safe environment for your employees. In part 1, we'll start by asking "How are you?"
How Are You? How Are You Really?
Asking questions comes from a place of caring about people as individuals. Getting to know the people you work with fosters camaraderie and deeper connections. Starting conversations, particularly those that happen during one-on-ones, with “How are you, How are you really?” gets everything off to the right foot. You show the other person that their feelings matter.
I add the amplifying phrase “How are you really?” to the end because “how are you?” by itself prompts an automatic response. “I’m good.” “I’m fine, how are you?” -- It’s the American way. SHOW NO WEAKNESS! ONLY ROBOTS ARE ALLOWED!
Getting a Genuine Response
You want a genuine response. And you want to make them feel comfortable enough to give you that genuine response. It may not happen at first, but over time, as you ask questions, listen to what’s being said, and answer their questions, you create a sense of psychological safety that gives people incentive to open up, be honest, and connect on a human level.
Some additional followup questions you may use to dive deeper or to transition the conversation from the personal to the more professional are:
- Are there any lingering issues we need to address before we proceed with our agenda?
- Do you have any questions or concerns before we dive into things?
- How can we use this time to best serve you, us, and our purpose?
Also did you know that asking questions can inspire people into action? Simply asking “What are your goals?” instigates the creation of goals and once people state these out loud or write them down on paper, they’re more likely to follow through. Even more so, if they know they’re going to be asked about their progress.
In both one on one situations and in group meetings, there’s one question that should always be asked as you’re wrapping up - “Anything else?” The most difficult part of asking this question is that you may have to remain silent as people ponder. This simple question can prompt them to ask any lingering questions, or to bring up other points.
Once the conversation is resolved, you may, once again, need to ask “Anything else?” Keep asking it until you get a “Nope, all good.” (Or until you run out of time, but if this happens, make sure you leave an opening for people to ask any follow-up questions through email, messaging, etc. In-person is best, but reality kicks us in the butt sometimes.)
Any Questions? ;)
About the Author
April Loebick is the Recruitment & Retention Specialist for GetUWired, an internet marketing firm located in Dahlonega (Duh-lawn-uh-guh), GA – about an hour and a half north of Atlanta. GetUWired is a full-service digital marketing agency with a team of 45 web developers, graphic designers, marketers, copywriters, and more who are dedicated to helping small businesses succeed all from a large cabin office in the middle of nowhere. She's also an HR for HR steering committee member and community steward for the Rural HR and Talent Acquisition groups.