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Humble Inquiry

The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling

By Edgar H. Schein
  • Read in 13 minutes
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  • Contains 8 key ideas
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Humble Inquiry by Edgar H. Schein

Humble Inquiry (2013) sets out the basic principles of the art of asking the right questions in the right way. It examines how your approach to inquiry affects your relationships at the office, your ability to get quality work completed and, ultimately, your success as a leader.

Key idea 1 of 8

If employees can’t freely express what they’re thinking, you can’t build a successful team.

What comes to mind when you think of a great team? Consider some of your favorite sports teams whose courage and unity on the field resulted in a winning season.

So what makes a great team? Is it enough to put a bunch of talented people in the same room?

Well, no. What makes a great team is the relationships between team members.

Strong communication skills cement these relationships. Each member of the team, from the quarterback to the lineman, is comfortable telling each other anything.

“Go left!” “I’m open!” “Great pass!” Each player expresses what they need to say without fear; opinions are voiced freely and everyone gets a chance to participate.

Many leaders in business try hard to emulate the teamwork found in sports teams they admire, but ultimately fail due to communication barriers, often between managers and employees.

Employees are often simply too afraid to share with their boss any issues they might have, fearing that voicing their needs or criticism will reflect poorly on them. Think about it: would you feel comfortable walking up to your boss and telling him the company strategy was full of holes?

This lack of communication can have terrible consequences. For example, it was precisely this sort of communication breakdown – the inability of information at the lowest levels of a company to reach those at the top – that led to the devastating Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Businesses leaders therefore need to create and nurture an environment where employees feel that they can freely share their thoughts and ideas, no matter what they are.

This is, of course, easier said than done. The following blinks will show you how.

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