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How to Ask Yourself the Right Questions

This article was based on episode 240 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. Members of the Modern Manager community get two months of Fast Forward membership for free. Never miss a worksheet, episode or article: subscribe to Mamie’s newsletter.


Have you ever realized that your inner dialogue is actually responses to a series of questions you’re asking yourself? Dr. Marilee Adams presents this mind-blowing idea in her book Change Your Questions, Change Your Life: 12 Powerful Tools for Leadership, Coaching and Results. Marilee is an award-winning author and pioneer in the fields of inquiry-based coaching, leadership, and organizational culture. She is also the CEO and founder of the Inquiry Institute, a solutions and performance-focused company providing consulting, coaching, training, keynotes, and eLearning.


Here, Marilee guides us through the two mental modes we jump between - the Judger and the Learner - and the different questions that arise from each mindset. She then shares how to harness the power of the Learner mode to be in control of our Choice Map, while still maintaining a peaceful relationship with our Judger. As Marilee explains, our mindset is central to healthy people management. When we embrace our teams with a healthy, non judgemental approach, great things can happen.


THE LEARNER MINDSET


Someone in a Learner Mindset is thinking of relationships and situations in terms of win-win. They see opportunities and look for approaches where each party can benefit from collaboration. They are open-minded, curious, full of ideas and a sense of possibility.


Questions that arise from a Learner Mindset include: “What happened?” (with a true sense of curiosity), “What do I want?”, “What’s my responsibility in this situation? How can I help it be better?”


A manager with a healthy Learner Mindset might ask “How can I best support my people?”, “What are my team’s strengths?” Or even “What would be fun for everyone?”, and “What can I do differently?”


THE JUDGER MINDSET


Those in a Judger Mindset, however, have a limited perspective and see few possibilities. They are judgemental, critical, and quick to blame. They view relationships and situations in terms of win-lose. They often describe people in terms of wrong and bad, and have a strong need to be right and in control.


Questions that arise in a Judger Mindset include: “What’s wrong with me (or what’s wrong with my teammate)?”, “Why didn’t it work?” (from a place of looking for who is to blame), and “Who is at fault?”


Marilee points out that having good judgment and being judgemental are very different. In fact, it’s nearly impossible to have good judgment while in a Judger mindset because we are thinking narrowly.


CREATE A HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR JUDGER


We all move back and forth between Learner and Judger mindsets all day long. Therefore, we don’t need to be afraid or in denial when our Judger comes out. Actually, that only makes everything worse! Instead, appreciate your Judger. After all, it was embedded in us originally for survival. Listen to how it shows up; what questions does it ask? Identify within your body where it shows up. Do you feel a tightened jaw or a quickened heartbeat? Strengthen your somatic skills to calm down the physiological response by taking a deep breath and re-centering yourself. When we learn to recognize and listen to our Judger, we are more capable of intentionally switching into the Learner mode.


Switch From Judger to Learner

  1. The first step to switching is simply awareness. Become aware (nonjudgmentally, of course) of the questions that are arising in your brain. Are you asking questions that are critical and focused on blame instead of being open to possibilities and new understandings?

  2. Ask yourself switching questions such as: “Is this how I want to be operating?”, “If I keep functioning in this way, will it negatively affect people and results?”, and “What do I hope will come out of this moment?”

  3. If needed, take a deep breath, ask for a pause to get a glass of water, and resume the conversation or self-thinking when you’re calm and refocused.

  4. Consider other ways of thinking about the situation and shift to asking Learner questions that center curiosity, creativity, and possibility.

The worst thing for the success of our teams is an atmosphere of criticism and blame. To imbue workspaces with a win-win attitude, managers need to learn how to shift into a Learner mindset when things start negatively spiraling. When we’re in that mental space, we are open to the possibilities of what we can create together. We take ownership over our power in helping everyone thrive. Learn to listen to the responses your mind is generating and discover what questions you’ve been asking. Great results begin with great questions. What are you asking yourself today?


KEEP UP WITH MARILEE


Get a $10 Discount on The Choice Map Course to help you create a foundational awareness of your mindsets and questions when you become a member of the Modern Manager community at themodernmanager.com/join.


This article was based on episode 240 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. Never miss a worksheet, episode or article: subscribe to Mamie’s newsletter.

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