- 15. If I Ask a Foolish Question, I'll Look Foolish
- 16. Unasked Questions: If You Already Know the Answer, It Is Unnecessary to Ask the Question
- 17. Someone Else (of Higher Authority or Greater Experience) Will Ask
- 18. Saved Questions: I Will Save My Question for Another More Appropriate Time
- 19. My Question Will Make Waves and Making Waves Is Bad
- 20. Normalization of a Defect
16. Unasked Questions: If You Already Know the Answer, It Is Unnecessary to Ask the Question
The reasons this behavior should be avoided are obvious, but not to everyone. The most common are these:
- You might be wrong.
- Others may need to hear the answer.
- It may be important to instill confidence in the person to whom you are questioning by “getting one (answer to a difficult question) right.”
- Asking an obvious question may raise a nonobvious but vital answer.
The most comical performance by a manager I ever witnessed was of a person who would state the question and then, right after asking, explain that he already knew the answer.
When he also stated the answer, he was invariably wrong. Unfortunately for him and the people who worked for him, he refused to accept corrections. Even if his staff argued with him, he would simply state that he believed that he was correct. That was all that mattered to him.
In some situations, managers must recognize the need for others to draw the same conclusions or to learn for themselves what the managers themselves have already discovered. Asking a question for the purpose of helping an individual or a team to draw their own conclusions is sometimes a great way of exercising managerial responsibility to strengthen the organization by avoiding the tendency to act as the authority figure.
Junior people in some organizations may also need the chance to develop confidence by being put on the spot with a question. They need practice to develop the skill of thinking on their feet. Questioning people to allow them to deal directly with difficult questions is one way to assist in their career growth. Using this as a management technique might occasionally lead to an unexpected answer.
What a manager may think is obvious might not be obvious to others. The only way to find out whether this is the case is to ask the question, and then ask yourself why wasn’t this clear to the others in the group.
An old and well-practiced habit of lawyers is to avoid asking questions of a witness unless the lawyer knows the answer. However, good cross-examination practices do not always translate into good business practices.
Managers do not have to know the answer to a question before asking it, and even if they do, it may still be worth asking.