You know that moment when you are sitting in a meeting and want to ask a question but are not sure you should? You don't know something about the topic, you want to know it and someone in the room can answer your question, but you don't ask. Why do we all do that? Why do we hesitate to just blurt out that tingling query that is just waiting to get out of our heads? I am glad you asked!
We hold back in meetings for all sorts of reasons. Some are simple: we want the meeting to end and do not want to extend it, we are tired, we are upset, we don't think the people actually know the answers and on and on the general list goes. But what about the situations where you have a valid question and the people in the room can answer it, yet you do not ask?
It is unfortunate, but somehow we have allowed the myth to pervade that smart people and those in charge are not supposed to look like they don't know the answer to something. This happens most when someone is recently promoted into a new role. They get in a room with folks and immediately clam up. Since they are now the manager of these people, they should be seen as superior or smarter. Therefore, they do not want to ask questions. It may make them look weak or that they do not know what they are supposed to.
This also happens to people who get a new role on a new team. They sit in meetings without asking anything because they do not want their new peers to realize they do not know the subject. They worry that asking a question will reveal this big secret that they actually do not know everything.
Who knows everything? Not me. Every year our company grows. We add more customers. We add more products. We add more associates. We enter new markets. Every year I have something new to learn. I have to ask a lot of questions. I have to read a lot. I have to be around a bunch of people who are extremely knowledgeable about their particular subject so that I can learn from them. I love asking smart people questions. That is why I love to work at Benefitfocus because we have so many smart people.
The prototypical loud talking genius who sits at the head of the table and talks about every subject as an authoritative master is a myth. You do not have to be that person when you get promoted or when you get a new project that takes you out of your comfort zone. You just got a new assignment; of course you don't know everything. You are absolutely the person who must be asking a ton of questions. It is exactly opposite of what most people think. New promotion = I have not done this before = I better ask a lot of questions so I can learn very quickly = I can be successful because I now know what I am doing.
Becoming smart comes from learning. Learning comes from curiosity. Curiosity means you turn over all the rocks to see what is underneath them. That is asking questions. You do it when you read. You do it when you have lunch with someone. You can and you should do it in meetings. When you begin to ask questions in public, you will learn very quickly. And the people around you will love you because they all have the same questions but are too nervous to ask. Be a lifelong learner! It will bring you more success, and it will also bring your customers more success as they partner with the smartest groups of people. Go for it!