Asking the Right Questions or Giving the Right Answers?

It is the belief of many, that effective managers should be able to give the right answer to every question and the right solution to every problem. They are expected to have their pockets full of them! The saying goes as follows: if somebody brinks a problem he or she is most probably an employee but if he or she also comes with a solution he or she is definitely a manager. Managers are simply expected to know everything and to be able to solve all kinds of problems. They are simply expected to have perfect knowledge and perfect judgment and to apply them perfectly, to say the least. This is however clearly an illusion that even managers themselves have!

Managers can make mistakes, as all human beings do! And their mistakes can range from small to big ones. No matter the quantity and the quality the knowledge and the experience they possess, no matter of the amount of information they have in order to decide correctly, they still make mistakes, simply because their perception of the situation at hand directly affects their capability to decide in one way or another. And their perception is influenced by a lot of parameters including their experiences, their psychological mood, even their physical situation. At the same time they may, out of personal standing, perceive reality in different ways, namely as it is, as it should be or as they want it to be. Different perceptions however give rise to different meaning making, which directly affects judgment. Under such circumstances, since managers are doomed to make mistakes, they can never be effective. This is no however the case!

Fortunately, effective managers need not be able to always have the right answers. Instead they need to know how to ask the right questions. By asking the right questions, not only they clarify the problem for themselves. They also do so for all the parties that are involved in it too. And this is clearly important, since each and every party simply has a different perception of the problem and therefore a different solution to offer. It is therefore important that a manager makes sure that all parties see the same problem in the first place. This is absolutely the critical first step. Otherwise, the risk of giving the right solution to the wrong problem will always be there! A manager should then make sure that the least number of parties that have to participate in the solution should do so. Solutions to problems that have been devised without the participation of the parties that may have authority, power and influence over the solution will not be easily implemented. It is therefore by asking the right questions and by involving al the interested parties then that a manager can make sure that all the right answers to all the relevant why, what, how, who and when questions will be answered effectively and all the right solutions to the right problems will ultimately be efficiently implemented.

There can be no right answers without the right questions. Without the right questions, answers are simply irrelevant. They are just hypotheses or point of views. Managers may therefore not have the right answer to every single question. They just not need to. They however definitely need to be able to ask all the right questions. And they need to make sure that they integrate all the parties involved around the problem. For this is the way that not only the right answer will be given but also that there will ultimately be a solution too!