Thursday, 3 July 2014

Shaving and the art of questioning

A few days ago, I was about to start shaving when my 6 year old daughter (Lucie) entered the bathroom. She wanted to discuss our upcoming day together, but quickly started asking me questions about shaving. Every step of the way, she asked me what I was doing, what my objective was, why I used a particular tool or product, etc... She also asked me to explain or clarify what she didn't understand. (She also told me every time I missed a spot.) I use a shave brush, and so the process is slightly more involved than with a can of shaving cream - she also wanted to know why I prefer the brush. 

Of course, shaving is not something I spend a great deal of time thinking about: I do it on autopilot, in the morning, sometimes while half awake and mostly while thinking about something else. Her questions forced me to consider my shaving process step by step, and to find a reason for everything I was doing.  

As I finished, I realized that between my automatic behavior and her pointed questions, this had been quite like a process audit in a professional environment. However, unlike in most process audits I've participated in, a few things struck me about her demeanor  
  1. the sense of wonder in her tone and questions - as if what I was doing was the most  amazing and important thing in the world (at least at that moment)  
  2. the innocence with which she approached shaving - she has no preconceived notions about how it should be done and has a completely open mind 
  3. the way in which she phrased her questions - she knows nothing about shaving (I'm clearly the expert), and so her manner was humble and positively inquisitive  
  4. the kindness underlying her questions - she genuinely cares about me and (at that moment) expressed her care by wanting to know more about shaving   
  5. the trust and confidence between us that allowed her to ask probing questions without threatening me and allowed me to answer in a frank and non-defensive manner, knowing I would not be judged for them
Of course, father-daughter interactions are quite different from intra-company or consultant-client relations, but I believe that I learned a lesson. The next time that I find myself observing a process and asking questions about it, I'll try to remember Lucie's 5 keys to a successful audit :  
  1. wonder and amazement - I am privileged to observe an expert working his/her craft  
  2. innocence - I will try to abandon any knowledge of the task to approach it with a fresh and open mind 
  3. posture and phrasing - I will inquire humbly about what the expert is doing and my questions will be gentle  
  4. kindness - I will care deeply about the individual and extend him/her the kindness I wish to receive in return  
  5. trust - I will take the time to build a relationship based on trust and show myself worthy of the same 

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