• Are You Applying This Underutilized Career Strategy?

    In her personal memoir, Tough Choices, Carly Fiorina 
    (former Chairman & CEO of Hewlett-Packard) describes 
    her approach to each new role, initiative, or 
    challenge that she encounters.  Before rolling up her sleeves and diving in, she takes the time to ask lots of questions.  She makes an effort to understand as 
    much as she can from as many people as possible.  By 
    asking questions, she earns people's respect, as they appreciate her interest and enjoy the opportunity to 
    talk about themselves.  She also learns a lot very 
    Asking questions is an incredibly powerful, and highly underutilized, career 
    success strategy.  Think back to the last time you sat in a meeting, listening 
    while others discussed something you didn't fully understand.  Did you jump in 
    with a question, or did you sit back, observe, and hope it would become clearer 
    to you as the discussion progressed?   If you're like most people, you opted not to ask a question.  Perhaps you worried that others would judge you for not 
    knowing what everyone else seemed to know.  Or, you were concerned about taking 
    the discussion off-track.  

    Here's another common scenario. Reflect back on the last time your manager asked
    you to take on a new project, or commit to a new goal, but you weren't entirely 
    clear about his/her expectations.   Did you ask follow up questions, or did you assume you would figure it out as you went along?  Many people are afraid that by asking too many questions, their managers will think they are incompetent.  The 
    opposite is actually true.  Asking questions reinforces your commitment to 
    getting the job done right.  

    Each time you fail to ask a question, you miss a very important opportunity.  
    Here are just some of the benefits of asking questions:

    1. Acquire valuable information

    This is the most obvious benefit of asking questions. If something isn't clear, or you want a deeper understanding of an issue, asking questions will expand your
    knowledge and increase your understanding.  The better you understand something, the more confidently you can speak about it, and the more effectively you can 
    perform your job.

    2. Be more productive

    Without asking questions, you are bound to make inaccurate assumptions that 
    result in wasted time and energy.  Rather than speculate about the right approach
    to take, only to have to repeat the task when it's not done correctly, ask 
    clarifying questions.  The more clearly you understand the objectives and expectations, the more effectively and efficiently you will achieve your goals.

    3. Increase your visibility

    Many professionals spend much of their time in meetings. It certainly feels 
    unproductive at times, but it's a great way to increase your visibility.  By 
    asking questions, people begin to notice you.  You differentiate yourself as someone who is engaged in the discussion, interested in making a contribution, and 
    capable of formulating thoughtful questions.  People remember the people who add value.  

    4. Demonstrate leadership

    It is human nature to fear being judged or looking foolish. Let's face it, there
    is certainly an element of vulnerability when you ask a question.  It also brings
    great opportunity, however.  When you ask a question, you take a leadership role.As conventional wisdom tells us, if you have a question, others likely have the 
    same question.  By asking your question, you've put yourself out there and 
    benefited others at the same time.  Everyone else who was afraid to ask that same
    question will appreciate the leadership you demonstrated. 

    5. Build relationships

    If there is something you do not understand, or you would like to learn more, 
    treat a subject matter expert to coffee and pick his/her brain.  This is a great way to network with people in different functional groups and build 
    relationships.  People love to talk about themselves and what they do!  They will
    appreciate the opportunity, you will gain useful information, and you will both 
    benefit from the chance to build a new relationship.

    If asking questions is not your natural style, it can feel uncomfortable to put 
    yourself out there.  Find an opportunity to take a small step outside your 
    comfort zone.  If you're not ready to raise your hand at your company's next town
    hall meeting, try asking a question at your own team meeting.  As you do so, you will increase your confidence and experience greater career success.
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