By Lisa Blankman, CPA
Manager, Audit & Assurance Services
Amazon’s dramatic evolution started with a simple question. In an email to 1,000 randomly selected customers, founder Jeff Bezos asked, “‘Besides the things we sell today (books, CDs, DVDs), what would you like to see us sell?’” Customers responded as if they were making shopping lists, and when one requested windshield wiper blades, Bezos began to see how the online book seller could become the massively successful virtual marketplace it is today.
In this American business world that constantly preaches confidence, approaching customers about how to improve your business could be viewed as a sign of weakness. But what if Bezos never sent that email out of the universal fear of asking a stupid question? Reminder: The only stupid question is the one you don’t ask!
“Fake it until you make it” is a popular piece of advice, but it might not be the best to follow in your professional ventures. Rising through the ranks of the workforce is about curbing your ego, being vulnerable and admitting what you don’t know. Being open about where you are and where you aspire to go will push you forward on the path to success.
In his book, Good Leaders Ask Great Questions, John C. Maxwell writes: “In life’s journey we face many doors. Hidden behind them are all kinds of possibilities leading to opportunities, experiences and people. Questions are the keys to opening these doors.” Once you walk through them, seek out the experts who can help you gain knowledge and climb the ladder to success. Soon you’ll find yourself speaking their language, fluently using industry-specific jargon and acronyms you couldn’t decipher at the start of your career path.
Asking questions early in your career is especially important, as it shows your leaders that you’re invested and eager to move up. Branching out of your comfort zone and asking for a challenge could land you a new position in your company. Asking customers what else they want from you could lead to the development of a new service or product — or the return of an old one, like Taco Bell’s Mexican Pizza, which it brought back after high customer demand on social media. There’s no end to the possibilities!
While your colleagues may perceive you as an experienced journeyman, you should always seek additional knowledge and keep asking GREAT questions! If you seek continuous learning, your level of self-improvement will soar to new levels.
Remember, you don’t have to seem like you know everything about the business world. There are plenty of doors left to open and many colleagues willing to help you. You just have to ask for the keys.