What’s the Question?

Got a minute?
Got a minute?

Which is more important, the question or the answer? I’m sure you’ve already guessed what I think, simply by the fact that I opened this post with a question. But, what do you think?

See? There I go again.

As I’ve mentioned previously on this blog, I am an engineer by training. Engineers are trained to seek answers, to create solutions. What I have found over the (many) years since graduation is that if you don’t understand the question, or if you don’t ask the right question in the first place, you can’t possibly provide the right answer.

Now, as an entertainer, I find myself consistently going back to the question. For example, a typical phone call for my services starts with, “What do you charge?” My answer is always, “Tell me about your event.”

The first question we need to answer is whether I am a good fit. Next we need to determine the level of effort that is going to go into the event.

As a business leader, I used to constantly coach my staff on this same issue. More often than not, internal customers would come to the team and ask things like, “How much will a new network switch cost?” It’s easy to answer that question. The problem is, that’s probably not the right question.  The customer has already jumped to a solution in their mind that might not be the right one. So, I would coach my staff to deflect the first question with a question. “Tell me what you are trying to accomplish.”

From a more philosophical point of view, I find the questions to be much more intriguing and interesting than the answers. Maybe that comes with getting older. Maybe it comes from consuming less caffeine. Whatever the reason, I find digging in and looking for the underlying “why” in a conversation to be significantly more fun and ultimately more fulfilling because, finally, we are starting to resolve the real issue, answering the real questions behind the question.

Next time you find yourself ready to pop out that quick answer to the question being asked, take a moment and consider whether the question being asked is the real issue. Perhaps answering the question with a question will provide a better answer.