September 21, 2007

Rate of growth up the corporate hierarchy is directly proportional to the rate of growth of one's skills at critical questioning.

Visualize this scenario: I go to my boss fully prepared. After hearing me he asks a few questions, some of which I never thought existed, and I and my plans are floored. I think my boss is very smart. After an hour, I accompany my boss to the cabin of his boss to discuss a proposal. My super boss asks a few questions to my boss, some of which he never thought existed, and he squirms in his chair. I guess he must be feeling the same way I felt when his questions floored me!

This was one of the corporate eureka moments that I sometimes hit upon. Someone is your boss because he can ask better questions than you. Corollary, if you want to step into your boss' shoes, consciously upgrade your skills at critical questioning.

Of course, critical questioning has a lot to do with experience. But at the same time, I have noticed that skills at critical questioning can be remarkably improved by consciously asking "why" again and again. "Why" is perhaps one of the most powerful words of management but often quite underestimated and underutilized.

If you want to rapidly move up the corporate ladder, you should sharpen your skills at asking incisive and unexpected questions. Your best friend in this endeavour would be the power of "why". Never accept anything as perfect. There is always some scope for improvement and value addition. Consciously ask "why" all the time and you would be surprised to see yourself on the fast track.