By Eric Woodruff, CPA, CCIFP
Partner, Audit & Assurance Services
Many students don’t want to raise their hand in class, as they think asking questions is a sign of weakness. This can carry over into the working world, with employees and even business leaders creating a deafening silence in the conference room. Professionals don’t want to appear as though they don’t know what they’re doing.
“Fake it until you make it” is a popular piece of advice, but it might not be the best to follow in the long run. As leaders ourselves, we can say that we prefer when people ask questions, as it shows an interest in the business and a dedication to improving for the sake of helping themselves and their team thrive.
Think about it this way: Where would Steven Spielberg be if he didn’t ask himself and his crew how they could deal with the malfunctioning mechanical shark on the set of Jaws? Maybe he wouldn’t have taken the brilliant, less-is-more approach of signaling the shark’s presence through ominous music and underwater shots from the creature’s perspective. Or what if business owners didn’t ask themselves how they could adapt to COVID? Restaurants wouldn’t have survived if they didn’t lean more heavily on delivery and drive-thru business.
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 not only helps you learn; it can help you climb the corporate ladder as well. 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 product or service. 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! As the adage goes, the only question NOT asked is the “stupid one.”
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.