Before getting into this week’s topic, I need to first report on last week’s topic of using the 5 Second Rule. My goal was to lose three pounds by using the rule to say ‘No’ to ice cream. Well, I succeeded in saying ‘No’ to ice cream, but only dropped two pounds. This week I’ll use the rule to avoid eating after 8:00 p.m.

We have been extremely fortunate during our 20 years at Top 20 Training to have met educational leaders who share our mission and support our work. Among these has been Mark Shellinger and his incredible staff at National SAM Innovation Project. No organization has does more to celebrate our profession and develop the effectiveness of principals and educators than NSIP.

Each week Jim Mercer, NSIP Technical Coordinator, shares a practical tip to help educators be more effective. Recently Jim’s tip came from Hal Gregerson, author of Questions are the Answer, on how asking better questions makes us better leaders. Jim writes:

  1. Understand what kinds of questions spark creativity. A leader who wants to unleash the creativity in others reframes the problem and invites exploration and new ideas: “What are you wrestling with and how can I help?”
  2. Generate new questions. Instead of commenting on something you observe, ask a question. Beintensely curious.
  3. Respond with the power of the pause. Wait, think and ask what the other person thinks. Respond with a question, rather than a statement. This builds trust and shows interest. It demonstrates that you value what others think.
  4. Brainstorm questions. When you are stuck, ask your team to brainstorm ideas and questions. This simple strategy often results in great ideas and even better questions.
  5. Reward your Questioners. Your job isn’t to have the answer—it’s to build the capacity of the people with whom you work. Make clear that you value the questions people raise—especially when they don’t match your own thinking. Your response to different ideas will show your team what you value. If we really value collaborative work, then we must be willing to accept new ideas and show curiosity—never dismissal.

Students and Questions: As an English teacher earlier in my career, I would assign something for my students to read and give them questions to answer from their reading. Now I would do that quite differently. Rather than having them answer questions from their reading, I would have them identify questions they have from their reading.

Parents and Questions: During our Top 20 Training sessions for parents, we challenge parents to consider asking ‘right’ questions. For example, when we have parents identify the most common question they ask their students regarding homework, they normally respond, “Are you done with your homework?” We suggest that that is an irrelevant question and prove our point by asking parents if they ever completed a homework assignment when they were in school, but didn’t learn anything from it. Most agree that they had. So, the question parents should be asking regarding homework is, “What have you learned from your homework?” This makes clear the purpose of homework. It’s not intended to get something done, but to learn something. Our goal is not to have students check things off as being completed, but to create a culture of learning.

This week think about how you can use questions to better achieve your desired outcomes.

If you have any questions for our Top 20 Training team…Tom Cody, Willow Sweeney, and Kevin Brennan…please send them our way.

Paul Bernabei, Director