How Can Leaders Foster a Culture of Honesty?

Rather than expecting people to fall in line, a questioning leader encourages disagreement.

How can leaders foster a culture of inquiry within their organizations? originally appeared on Quora, the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus.

I’m abridging the 16,000-word Leaders and Questioning section of The Book of Beautiful Questions here to a 500-word bulleted list about some good things that leaders should be doing to foster a culture of inquiry. So take a look at the book for further info on the pros of fostering a culture of inquiry.

· Leaders might want to start by asking themselves a two-part question: What is the culture I want, and what actions and conditions are likely to produce such a culture?

· Then leaders weighing whether they truly desire a culture of inquiry may want to ask themselves: Am I ready to announce ‘Bring us the problems you’ve noticed?’ Because in a questioning culture, people will do just that.

· To put a culture of inquiry into practice, leaders should be thinking and questioning out loud, in front of everyone.

· A curious, questioning leader starts meetings by asking open-ended questions. Too many leaders start meetings by stating opinions.

· Rather than expecting people to fall in line, a questioning leader encourages disagreement.

· Create a safe haven for questions. Ask your team How can we make questioning safe? How can we make it rewarding? How can we make it productive? And lastly, How might we make it a habit?

· Establish a company policy: Why not have every manager or supervisor throughout the company participate in a weekly or monthly “Ask Me Anything” session?

· Make it clear that no one will be judged or punished for asking a question. The goal is to have an environment where no one has to fear repercussions for asking, Why haven’t we done something about that problem we’ve been having with defective parts? And the person who asks that question won’t get told, “You raise a good question. Now go solve it.”

· Recognize and incentivize questioning. Organizations can showcase questions on real or online bulletin boards, hold “question of the week” contests, and find other ways to celebrate questions and the questioners.

· Company leaders could keep notes of the questions they receive and open meetings by saying, “John in Accounting asked a great question the other day and I’d like to share it with you all.”

· To help people be more productive in their questioning, it’s important to teach them that questioning can and should be aimed at achieving a desired outcome.

· Finally, encouraging a culture of inquiry recognizes that questioning is a habit of mind. Regular questioning exercises can help form the habit. So can rewards. The more questioning can become part of everyday business practice, the sooner the habit will form. So, leaders should ask themselves, What if every meeting began with a question? What if the company held regularly-scheduled “question days”—during which groups come together to ask, What assumptions can we challenge today? What if I ask employees to come up with one ambitious question a week, to be shared with their colleagues?

Check out my Slideshare “10 Signs You Have a Culture of Inquiry” to see what a culture of inquiry might look like:

10 Signs You Have a Culture of Inquiry - #CultureCode

This question originally appeared on Quora. More questions on Quora:

* Business: What are some tips that can help people get the most out of professional feedback?

* Success: How can questioning increase my chance of success?

* Psychology: How effective is learning about biases in actually countering biases?

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