STOP. Before you ask that question, read this first!

Quite often our instant reaction when we don’t know the answer to something is to turn to someone else and seek the answer from them.

You could be turning to the person in the cubicle next to you, or reaching for your mobile phone to call the person who you think can answer your question, but have you ever stopped to consider whether your question needs an immediate answer?

This topic was brought up last week in a number of discussions I had with businesses and even a few conversations I had with friends. In fact, I even had a 45 minute conversation with one person regarding their feeling that mobile phones have significantly increased our need for instantaneous responses!

We are all guilty of doing it. Whatever it is that causes the trigger, we get to a point where we have a question that we need an answer to and without thinking, we turn to the closest person to us or dial someone’s mobile number to obtain that answer.

Our office is ‘open plan’, which is great for collaboration, but is unfortunately very bad for interruptions. A few months ago I prepared a quick list of questions for our team to keep on their desks and ask themselves first, before they turn to the person next to them and ask a question.

After hearing this familiar frustration last week, I thought I’d share this list with you. It’s based on other research and information I found and then applied to our business, so you may need to alter it slightly for your own.

Before you turn to someone and ask them a question, ask yourself the following:

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  • Have you asked this question before? If so, are you just being lazy by asking someone else for the answer, rather than trying to remember the answer yourself?
  • Has the answer you seek been written down somewhere? Have you checked the company knowledge base, employee manual, procedures or your own notes for the answer?
  • Is the person you’re asking really the right person to be asking? Quite often we’ll ask someone we trust, however that doesn’t necessarily mean they are the best person to be answering your questions.
  • Is it urgent that your question is answered straight away? Unless there is an emergency and something is likely to go very wrong unless you get an immediate answer to your question, chances are it won’t affect you or the outcome if you don’t get an immediate answer.
  • If possible, try bundling your questions together. Keep a list of questions you have that pop up throughout the day and put them together in an email for your supervisor, colleague, customer, vendor, etc. Every time you stop to ask someone a question, you are impacting both your own and their productivity. Bundle your questions together and you will improve your own productivity as well as theirs!
  • If it’s absolutely essential you get an answer straight away, because if you don’t the customer will get irate, something will go terribly wrong, or <insert critical emergency here>, then and only then, turn to the person (or call the person), kindly ask if you can interrupt them, let them know it’s urgent and then ask your question. Make sure you write down the answer in case you need it again!

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Author’s note: These articles are written by David Rudduck, Managing Director of Insane Technologies, and are based on research he and his team have done, combined with outcomes and lessons learnt through their own experience facing common business challenges.

As anyone who has owned a business, managed a business or even managed a team of people will understand, there are new challenges to overcome every day. David and his team share these articles in the hope that it may help other business owners and managers find answers to their own business challenges.

We appreciate that what we publish here is not ‘fact’ and that due consideration should be made before applying these to your own business.

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