Monday, March 14, 2011

Why Leaders Ask the “W” Questions

Phrases that make me stop and ask “why, what, who, where or when?” seem to be cropping up more often both in my online work and in face to face conversations. These phrases use the following terminology:

• “Most people…”
• “The majority of (Canadians etc.) feel (think, believe etc.) that…”
• “Everyone knows that…..”
• “No one wants……”
• “People in (Vancouver etc.) are so (mean, stupid, cold, unfriendly etc.)”
• “Never do business with (ABC), they are *the* worst…..”
• “People who (rely on technology; ride without a helmet etc.) are idiots”
• “Everyone who works here feels….”

There are more of these phrases but those examples are the ones I seem to come across quite often. The use of this terminology is likely to arise from a variety of factors (the 140 character Tweet is one of the Social Networking contributions to this phenomena) but they carry with them a sense of drama and suggest a belief that if *I* think this particular point is true, surely the ‘majority’ must agree with me.

If you are in a leadership or managerial role, or if your work involves frequent interactions with employees the why, what, who, where and when questions will often shift the discussion from an all-encompassing issue to gathering details that will assist in the problem solving process. Perhaps the difficult part of this type of interaction is quickly getting our own first reactions under control so we can ask the “W” questions from an objective position.

What phrases are triggers for you? How do you deal with them?

1 comment:

  1. Sentences that begin with "I think..." and "Basically..." are two. You're right though, I notice a lot of generalizations are helped by asking questions to draw out the facts.