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Discovery Questioning – A Skill Used to Create More Powerful Conversations

January 23, 2015

Have you heard the story about “Cutting off the Ends of the Ham”

A young girl was watching her mother bake a ham for a family gathering and noticed her mom cutting off the ends before placing it in the oven.

“Mom, why do you cut the ends off before baking the ham?” she asked.

“Hmmm…I think it helps soak up the juices while it’s baking.  I’m actually not sure, though. That’s just the way your grandma always did it, so I’ve just always cut them off. Why don’t you call grandma and ask her?”

So, the little girl phoned her grandma and asked “Grandma, mom is making a ham and cut off the ends before placing it in the oven. She said that it’s probably to help soak up the juices but wasn’t sure. She said you’d know because she learned how to cook from you.”

“That’s true. I do cut off the ends of the ham before baking. But I’m actually not sure why either. I learned how to cook from my mom. You should ask her.”

So, the inquisitive little girl called her great grandmother and asked “Great grandma, Do you cut off the ends of the ham to help it soak up the juices?”

Her great grandmother chuckled.  “Oh, no sweetie.  I just never had a pan big enough to hold a whole ham, so I always had to cut off the ends to make it fit.”

Telling Asking Diagram for ManagersThe allegory of the ham is not new, and has been told numerous different ways, but it is a great example for reflection. Employees do things because that’s the way they were taught, but too often we never asked the most simple – why? When ideas are being presented for conversation, many times people want to jump to “judging”. When systems and procedures change, little steps or procedures are sustained that take time and energy that may not be of value any longer.

When we do things “because that’s what we’ve always done” we fail to seek opportunities for improvement. We fail to see the assumptions we make every day out of habit and routine.  Fresh eyes on a process or standard procedure can help you find errors, redundancies, gaps, and unquestioned assumptions.  When we keep cutting off the ends of the ham, we fail to innovate. A manager has the opportunity to innovate by using a skill called Discovery Questioning® in all five steps of a conversation.

5-Step Conversation for Managers and Leaders

“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”  – Albert Einstein

Want to change the culture in your organization?  Train your managers and supervisors in the art of having a powerful conversation by asking more discovery questions. If you do, you’ll start to see everyone engaging in richer discussions.

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