Thursday, April 21, 2011

If My Question Offends You ….

As a long-time strategy and global technology adoption architect, my opinion is often solicited, whether it be by a start-up, a not-for-profit, a Fortune 25 company or anything in-between.

Fortunately (or unfortunately) for the people who solicit my help, I am known as the “asker of audacious questions”. 

People come to me expecting to ask a lot of questions, get a lot of answers and move on.

However, many are surprised that I often have more questions for them than they have for me and if they are unprepared or have weak egos, they will be offended by them.

There is a little secret about why I ask so many questions.

It’s not an attempt to assert one person’s intelligence over another.  We are all gifted in intelligence in different forms.

It’s not an attempt to embarrass them, create a contest of wills or play ego-Olympics.  What a waste of time and energy that is.

Frankly, I find everyone’s ideas fascinating.  I am curious to know if you find your own story as compelling and based on reality as you would like me to believe it is.

However, the most important reason I ask so many questions is because I believe, as I learned from Gerald Weinberg’s writings many years ago, that when people come seeking advice or a solution to a problem, often they as the subject matter expert actually have within their mind the very solution they hope to obtain from someone else’s mind.

Mr. Weinberg posited that if one listens carefully, the owner of a problem will actually state the answer in the first five minutes of dialog.  Mr. Weinberg named this rule …. gasp … wait for it … The 5 Minute Rule.  It is brilliant in its simplicity.

Of course, the owner of the problem is so buried with mental baggage that they can’t see the answer.  The people they approach for help are often so focused on proving that they are the “right person for the job” that they don’t hear it either, since in an effort to demonstrate intelligence or qualifications their own voice drowns out the person asking for help.

However, if the right questions are asked, probing the mind of the person with the problem and one listens carefully to the answers, the solution often presents itself.

People like me don’t just help others find a solution.  Often times they had it within themselves – they just needed a little help finding it, bringing it out and expressing it.

Asking appropriate questions provide an opportunity to explore within another, the strength of an idea, the thoroughness of the foundation that converts the idea into a result and the willingness of an individual to collaborate in making the idea into a reality. 

It is also an opportunity to assess how strongly someone feels about their willingness to do whatever it takes to make their dream come true.

If they get offended by a question, there is a good chance that they prefer not to deal with realities or that their ego doesn’t want to acknowledge that they may need some help.

For those people, being offended by simple questions should sound an alert that they are either not prepared for success or hungry enough for it.

And so if my question offends you, forgive me if I tell you that I won’t apologize to you. 

If you are offended,  you, me or both of us may have been saved from a disaster.

Maybe ……. unless you choose to go somewhere else where you hear what you want to hear and not what you need to hear.

Unfortunately in those situations, reality is a persistent beast.  It tells us what we need to hear repeatedly until we get it.

Or … if we ignore it too long … it gets us.

But then, you already knew that … didn’t you? :-)

In service and servanthood,


My Musings-in-a-Minute version of “If My Question Offends You ….” is the same as this one and can be found here.

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