Dumb Questions

“I’m not trying to show off,” defended Alex. “I have the answer, it’s quicker, it solves the problem. I know it looks like I am a just being a glory hog, but I call it a touchdown.”

I waited. Alex was in no mood to listen, not even to himself. So, I waited some more. Finally, I spoke.

“Alex, three months ago, did we expect you to have the answers to the biggest decisions on your projects?”

“Absolutely, that’s why I got the promotion.”

“Yes, three months ago, we expected you to be the best, the smartest person in the room. That’s why we promoted you to manager. Do you think this is a different game now?”

“I suppose it is or I wouldn’t be sitting here.”

“Alex, the game is different. Before, we expected you to have all the answers. Now you are a manager. We expect you to have all the questions. Instead of being the smartest person, you may have to be the dumbest person. I want you to ask,

What if? By when? Why did that happen? When do we expect to finish? How come that happened? What is stopping us?

“Just a few simple, dumb questions. It’s a different role you are playing, now.” -TF

4 thoughts on “Dumb Questions

  1. Thomas Ertner

    This is definitely a major shift in mental attitude for any of us. I’d like to also stress the part where he said, “I waited some more.” How many times would I have been able to give more accurate information, have been able to inculcate information, and have been able to learn for the future if I had had that ” some more” (perhaps even just 30 seconds)given me by a manager? I hope I allow the people I work with the “waited some more” so that we can work well together.

  2. Tom Foster

    Patience has always been a virtue, but for a manager, it is essential. It is often difficult to stop and be quiet. But sometimes, the silence can do a great deal of the heavy lifting.

  3. Tracye

    Yes, I find the more experience in all aspects of life it is so much more important to know when to use a tool that’s in my toolbox. Silence is one of those tools. Gathering/having the tools used to be my goal…now I know it’s HOW you use those tools that makes it work. And I’m looking forward to finding out there’s yet another step after that, and so on.

    As always, thank you for these catalysts for discussion.

  4. Tom Foster

    Thank you for your comment. As they say in tennis. It’s all in the wrist. Understanding the principle is only the first step. Competence only comes with practice.


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