Precision questioning is the shortcut to smarter work
By: Chloe Rolph
February 21, 2017 | Reading Time: 3 mins
Everyone wants to get more out of their team. More focus, better efficiency, less rework, better results, faster decisions, smarter decisions. What if you could get there by sharpening only one skill?
Shitty questions, you’re out. Precision questions, suit up!
Recognizing the symptoms of bad questioning is the first step.
You left a meeting with more new questions than answers. You went back to the drawing board on a project after receiving clarification instead of approval. You met with your team for an hour but you still don’t have the information you need.
Guess what? It’s not them. It’s you.
Clear, focused questions attract concise, targeted answers.
When you lack the best information, you didn’t ask the best questions. Vervago’s Precision Questioning framework is a common sense approach to sharing knowledge. It’s all about getting to the heart of the matter by asking purposeful and directive questions.
These are the five we focus on the most:
We ask go or no-go questions to make for more productive meetings. When a tangent threatens to derail the conversation, decide if it’s really relevant to your meeting’s purpose. Should we tackle this issue right now or take it offline?
We use basic critical questions to make sure our conversations have proper context. Fill in gaps with specific questions where you spot knowledge gaps. What happened to trigger this? When did this start? It’s important to understand unknowns earlier rather than later. Unknowns become action items.
Clarifying questions make for deeper understanding. Find real meaning in vague terms. Instead of asking why something has improved, ask for direct clarity. In what ways did it improve over last time? What does this metric show?
By drilling into root causes, we gain better control of outcomes next time. It’s time to eradicate surface level thinking. Go one inch deeper and watch your team sharpen their critical thinking skills too.
We tee up the best next outcomes with action questions. We have all this great information, now what can we do? What next steps can each person take and by when?
Let’s give these ideas some context.
You need feedback on a presentation deck.
Instead of asking: What do you think of the approach I took with this deck?
Try asking: Do you find the lead-in exciting enough to keep paying attention? Do you think a set of fresh eyes would have enough information about X to make a decision about Y? Would you change anything specific to make it tell a better story?
You’re leading the charge to define your brand voice.
Instead of asking: How would you describe our brand’s tone of voice?
Try asking: If our brand was a person, what would their personality be like? You mentioned funny, but are they silly or witty? By smart, do you mean intelligent, wise, brainy, or bright? Is their writing and speech formal or do they often use slang?
Your team is analyzing a campaign’s performance.
Instead of asking: Why is this campaign underperforming?
Try asking: Which KPIs are you measuring? Is performance gauged by certain benchmarks or by comparison to a previous campaign? Was anything done differently this time in terms of targeting, budget, bid strategy, or the landing page? Could there have been external factors at play such as the timing (seasonality, holidays, cycles) or new noise within the industry?
Great ideas are regular ideas that have been pressure tested.
In the end, we all want to have great ideas that translate into great work. This doesn’t happen by chance. Better questioning is a skill you can start developing in your next conversation. So when you go home tonight, don’t ask your spouse why they never take a turn unloading the dishwasher. Get to the heart of it and start coming home to an empty dishwasher. What other tasks get in the way of you unloading the dishwasher? Would setting your alarm 10 minutes earlier give you more time? Do you need a refresher on where certain things go?