Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Introduction to Questioning Attitude

For those who are stumbling on Questioning Attitude without coming from one of my other publications, allow me to introduce myself. I have been a commissioned officer in the United States Navy or US Naval Reserves since May 1981. Like most people who have served in a large organization for many years, I have held a variety of positions, but within the Navy my career has been rather unusual. There are not many officers who served through their post department head shore tour, left active duty for six years for entrepreneurial endeavors and returned to active duty to eventually return to being a "regular Navy" vice a US Naval Reserve.

There are also not many who have spent 7 years (and counting) in a row in three very different Washington DC based Navy headquarters assignments at essentially the same level. I have been in an IT job, an analysis job associated with manpower and training, and now in a financial analysis job associated with maintenance. I have been a Commander (O-5) for more than 12 years. This has given me a rather unusual perspective.

As part of my navy nuclear power training, I learned a lesson that has been an important part of my outlook on life ever since - the importance of a questioning attitude. As I move though life and get blessed with the opportunity to observe important events, participate in wide ranging discussions, meet interesting people, and hold different jobs, I often think about why certain things are the way they are, whether or not those things match expectations or potential, and whether or not they can be changed.

It is often prudent to keep some questions out of the immediate conversation, but it can be useful to use the situation for deeper reflection or for starting a conversation with a new group of people who might be interested in learning or helping implement a change. In large organizations, sharing such thoughts and observations may be a way to initiate a change in policy, attitudes or priorities.

My intention with this blog may be a bit grandiose and even a bit hazardous to my current career, but I think that the effort will be worth while. I am using my given name and will maintain a professional level of conversation that respects the need for discretion and security. Comments will be allowed and encouraged, but they will be moderated. I reserve the right to delete any that are objectionable, threatening or obscene.


John Fairclough said...

The approach is great. The consistency is there as well - leading you to moderate the posts. I believe Ronald Reagan made the phrase "Trust but verify" famous. This quote stands the test of time.

Anonymous said...


Its a great philosophy of life. To go around with the nuclear Watchword " a questioning attitude". I always preface my questions can I ask a stupid question? The recipients usually get that its a going to be a hard question thats going to make them squirm. BZ on your thoughts and insights

bobviney said...

Great approach. I too served in the Navy nuclear power program, and was accepted after a personal interview with Admiral Rickover.

I'm now a business and executive coach, and have served in C-level positions in several companies. Here's what I "coach" about questionning:

1. Steven Covey's 5th Habit of the 7 Basic Habits of Highly Effective People is "Seek First to Understand, before Seeking to be Understood". This habit, as you can imagine, requires the talents of questionning and listening to the responses, rather than speaking.

2. There's a great quote that I use in coaching, although I don't know who deserves the attribution: "I have never learned anything by speaking". I coach clients in how to use questioning skills to improve their abilities to build new client relationships and retain existing relationships, so they better understand the needs of clients and can use this understanding to fit solutions to needs . .. versus selling products.

This is a skill I wish our political leaders would utilize more often!