If you are just starting a new job, your initial agenda is to build awareness about your organization, team, and role.

Asking questions is a powerful way to not only know your organization, its specific opportunities, and challenges and clarify your role but also to show interest and build relationships. Do not assume anything. Confirm what you think you know by clarifying. As Albert Einstein said – Question everything.

There is no formula to come up with the right questions. It usually comes from a combination of your curiosity, expertise, research, and empathy. Whether you are talking to stakeholders or peers, use the following criteria to evaluate your questions – 

  1. Does your question indicate your preparedness – I am sure you have appeared in job interviews where the interviewer walks in, asks you for a copy of your resume, and goes through it while starting you off with the classic tell me about yourself. How does that make you feel? On the other hand, when you know that interviewer has spent time going through your resume in advance and the questions directed are to know more about you and your abilities beyond the resume, how is that experience different? You can apply this to all settings. For example, in the initial meeting with your stakeholder, instead of asking them to tell you about their business, ask about their strategy to meet the targets they have announced for the next 5 years. It conveys that you read the available information to prepare for the conversation and respect their expertise and time.   
  2. Does your question reflect your expertise – You build trust by referencing your experience and the impact you have created in the past. The objective is not to toot your horn but generate confidence about your abilities in your stakeholders. You draw upon your experience to find the information you need to solve problems and uncover opportunities. When your stakeholders trust you, they feel more inclined to share information with you. Your questions empower you to deliver better solutions and build relationships based on respect for what you bring to the table. 
  3. Does your question trigger reflection – Everyone you talk to is taking time out of their already busy schedule to help you. Are your questions specific and open-ended enough to make your stakeholders think deep, reconsider first principles, and challenge conventional wisdom? Your stakeholders will respect you for triggering reflection and broadening their minds to review their assumptions and beliefs.  

This is not all. People who ask good questions are considered empathetic. They make it easy for others to share their perspective and invite collaboration. As a result, decision-making, collective intelligence and execution improve.

What do you think might get in your way? Fear of asking wrong questions, asking too many questions, antagonizing people? Being new to the organization offers you a unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Allow this opportunity to set you free to be inquisitive and absorb all the information you can. There are no wrong questions. Remember, questions stimulate learning and improve interpersonal bonding. So long as you ask in the right tone and come from a place of curiosity and the desire to add value and not a place of judgment, questions are a powerful tool to unlock your value in the organization. 

PS – This was published as a part of the ‘your career matters’ series on LinkedIn

If you have taken up a new role and need help to establish yourself fast, write to me at neelimachakara@adminpurposeladder.com