As the words exited my lips, all eyes were on me. I wasn’t making an attempt for shock value, I wasn’t aiming to be controversial, and I wasn’t even making claims about the LGBTQ community. I was simply the one courageous enough to ask the question many of us were thinking. We—the sea services, and particularly the Marine Corps—were underperforming in our current diversity initiatives. Our percentages of African American and Hispanic American military officers were not reflective of the percentages of those same minority groups in the American population. Plus, the current initiatives didn’t take into consideration the additional challenges women faced is this profession. Adding yet another diversity initiative, this time regarding the LGBTQ community, without evaluating the necessary support structures or processes of our current efforts, was not going to accomplish much. So I felt my question was valid—and needed.
Unfortunately, we don’t always know how people will respond or what results will come from pointed questions. Ideally, questions will resonate with people and force us to face our fears, confront significant issues, and complete essential tasks. There are times, however, when someone may grow defensive or hostile, and in those moments it’s comforting to remember that we’re not responsible for how people respond to questions that are presented with grace and humility.
The Art of Asking Questions
Good questions get us one step closer to a collective understanding and positive, well-placed questions ensure that we’re having the right conversations as they constantly challenge us to evaluate the significance of our work. If you want to maximize your influence as a leader, you must learn to ask the right questions.
1. Get curious. I love the work and conversations being birthed out of Q Ideas. Even their tagline speaks to their purpose: “Stay Curious. Think Well. Advance Good.” Too often we are simply reacting to the situations around us. A great leader is always thinking ahead, and that foresight often begins with being curious.
2.Be considerate. Sometimes we don’t ask questions simply because we lack the capacity or creativity to ask. In other words, if we’re always having the same conversations with the same people, our environment can become stagnant and rob us of the opportunity to think creatively. Take time to read, research, or find out what other people, churches, and organizations are doing. Expanding our horizons can lead us to ask the right questions.