asking vs. telling: the impact of humble inquiry on getting things done

Situation – We are all on a continuum as to what we value more in an interaction – are we more task-focused, or relationship focused?  Culturally, North Americans are said to be more task-focused: What can you do for me to help me achieve my task? Have you noticed the side order of remembering to smile to grease the wheels during task-accomplishment?  ‘Nuff said.  At the other extreme, one can prioritize developing and deepening an inter-personal relationship – we feel good, but did anything get done?

Target:  The funny thing is… in the long term, we get more stuff accomplished when working with people who are interested in knowing us, who care about us as people, not just as instruments for their own goals.

Proposal:  Read/listen to “Humble Inquiry” by Edgar Schein.  He describes how we can be collectively more effective at getting stuff done by engaging in humble inquiry, and bucking the expectations of behavior based on power and status.  We have seriously robust and constraining social judgements around asking questions and telling people what to do.  What does this look like? People with lower status/power are expected to ask the questions, while those with higher status/power are expected to tell and direct people what to do – heaven help us when we buck the trend!  Ed Schein helps me see how and why I need to buck the trend.  This is a long game for me – getting stuff done AND developing respectful collaborative relationships in the process.

Next Steps:  Pause my  swirling about in our cult of “busy-ness”.  Consider that I actually all know this, but fail to defend my  investments of time, vulnerability and effort in relationships – calling them “nice to haves”.  Read/listen to “Humble Inquiry” by Edgar Schein using the services of the fantastic Toronto Public Library – again. Talk about the potential of humble inquiry with others.

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