The Power of HOW Questions
“Sure, inclusion sounds great, but the last thing I need is to double the work on my plate.”
First, practicing conscious inclusion, leveraging the power of the diversity on our teams and in our organizations, isn’t about doubling our current work responsibilities; conscious inclusion is about modifying how we fulfill our responsibilities to maximize our efficiency and effectiveness.
I often encounter people leaders who, while genuinely desiring to demonstrate commitment to diversity & inclusion (D&I), feel such commitment would entail adding hours to their already intensely, busy days. I can relate. On days filled with back-to-back meetings, deliverables and deadlines, pausing to really consider different perspectives, adapt to different styles, and manage my own bias feels like yet another task.
That is when I remind myself to ask HOW and not only WHAT ELSE QUESTIONS since the latter have in the past made me put off D&I to the next day, when I am less busy (which is never), more comfortable or ready (true embracing of differences is bound to trigger some discomfort) and more available (we are always available – that question is for whom?).
All that inclusion procrastination seems to result in resorting to and justifying our “old” habits, historical patterns, and over-reliance on our “go-to” network (and creation of a “go-away” network), and ultimately limited positive change. I have found the “How Questions” to help counteract that because they feel achievable and enable the generation of options that make room for adaptation to difference: How will I execute on my commitments? How will I engage with others around me — colleagues, team members, clients, etc. – across lines of difference? How will I integrate a D&I lens into that which I need to achieve?
Let’s apply it to conducting work meetings, as an example:
- How can I value different thinking styles?
- Consider sending an agenda with questions to ponder in advance of the meeting, to value styles of individuals that prefer to process information before the meeting. Don’t expect that all people will provide their best input “in the moment.”
- How can I adapt to different participation styles?
- Consider incorporating different methods of providing input and not only catering to extroverts or team members comfortable speaking out in groups. For example, incorporate post-its when brainstorming or soliciting feedback, assign portions of agenda to different team members, and regularly check-in with those who find it challenging to speak in group gatherings. And here’s some serious conscious inclusion: ask your team members what brings out their best participation.
- How will I include outlier voices?
- Consider encouraging contrarian viewpoints, expressing genuine appreciation for outlier viewpoints, and asking to hear from those who haven’t shared yet or who disagree. Hear from those you know agree with you, last.
- Ask to hear from colleagues on the phone, joining from a different business unit or location. Monitor your team for insiderness/ outsiderness dynamics.
In a nutshell, HOW questions slow us down for a moment. In that moment, we are able to consider alternatives and manage our own biases toward what suits us personally. In that moment, HOW questions can lead us to answers that not only don’t slow us down as we do what we do, but that help us do what we do better.
The Kaleidoscope Group