“I sat next to a boy named Seth in my micro-economics class. As the teacher explained new concepts I was impressed with everyone else, and a little embarrassed that I was one of the few raising hands to ask questions. It seemed that these concepts were basic knowledge to everyone else and I was just playing catch-up. At the last minute, when the class was about to end, Seth leaned over to me, rather sheepishly, and asked about a basic concept that we had covered an hour before. He didn’t understand it at all! I felt like saying, “Wait! You were confused too but made me ask all the questions?!” In my class I’m now seen as the ‘shameless asker’ of questions. Almost like I’ve been elected to ask the questions everyone else is too embarrassed to ask. I find it interesting that so many people are embarrassed to ask questions in front of the class that there is a line of about twelve students at the end of every class who ask questions that could have easily been addressed during the class period”.
My daughter, Emma, recently related this experience from one of her final semesters at school. I found it interesting, not because of her asking a lot of questions, but regarding the boy Seth and the line of students afterward. This situation happens constantly in classroom settings, and it probably happens just as frequently in professional settings. No one wants to be the one to raise their hand and say, “Wait. I didn’t really understand what you just said”. For someone like Emma, saying she doesn’t understand is her direct way of learning. For her classmate Seth, it’s admitting that he’s not as smart as everyone else and his reluctance to feel unintelligent in front of his peers is a significant roadblock to learning and growth.
The challenge for you this week: evaluate each one of your team members and try to notice patterns of this type of learning roadblocks and look to see how you can assist them.
If you observe that some of your team fail to ask questions for lack of confidence in front of their peers, address it rapidly. It sets up a culture that is indicative of deeper concerns.