I had a conversation with a friend this weekend who was telling me about his little boy. He’s enlightened by his son’s curiosity and ability to ask questions and interest in the world around him, and as a parent he takes pride in putting in time to answer his son’s questions.
He really refrains from resorting to dropping the “because I said so” line, but when he does the son knows that’s as far as he’s allowed to take it (and those moments are quite infrequent).
I think this is great and refreshing. At the same time, by facilitating and answering questions of “why” the father is also creating an avalanche of even more “why” questions.
This is part of the reason why many people think “Because I said so” works so well – it stops the annoying questions from coming, taking stress away from the answerer, and because silence is golden.
Well, what else happens?
You begin to facilitate an environment where rules are meant to be followed and never questioned.
You demonstrate that asking questions will often lead to dead ends, and one should just accept the finding as is.
Depending on how the response is delivered, maybe you suggest that asking questions will lead to punishment or embarrassment.
Either way, the built-in curiosity is squelched and the learning process is fractured. In addition, because parents are the first role models in a child’s life, parents are also demonstrating that curiosity and failure to follow rules to the letter are not ideal ways to get through life. Children trust early on that they can go to their parents for answers, and when that trust is broken they turn to someone else for answers.
So the child either doesn’t learn, loses inspiration to learn, or has to find other (possibly unapproved or dangerous) avenues through which to learn (like learning from bad influences).
What happens when children don’t learn or learn improperly? Either they don’t improve and grow, becoming stagnant, or they follow the wrong path.
You want your organization to grow and adapt with the changing business climate – if you or your colleagues have a tendency to not give proper credence to new ideas, point to the employee handbook for every question of “why” or say that rules are not to be broken, you are squelching your employees’ curiosity and trust for the company doing the right thing or finding ways to improve.
It’s easy to use a rulebook as a scapegoat instead of addressing the real answers for questions posed by associates. How can your company get better if new ideas are continuously squashed and teamwork/communication trampled?
Instead, welcome your associates’ interest in getting better. Facilitate candid conversations where questions can be asked and honest answers can either be provided or researched. The more you say “because I said so”, the more the rift between associates and management grows and trust gets eroded.
And if you develop an effective means of communicating improvement ideas and you are overloaded with more questions? Push back on those questions with a “What do you think?” or “Why do you think we should do this?” and get the askers to think as well. This not only continues the dialogue but it helps them think constructively and research ideas more thoroughly. Part of improvement is the ability to ask questions and to think independently.
Let your associates ask questions, and give them honest and thorough answers. They will thank you for it with more questions, more ideas, and more trust in you. You never know – you might learn something too.