In this blog post, we’ll explore what is Humble Inquiry, its principles, and how it can play a vital role in improving your workplace culture. The concept was developed by renowned organisational theorist Edgar Schein… who’s kinda a hero of mine.
In the ever-evolving landscape of modern workplaces, fostering effective communication and building a positive workplace culture is essential for productivity, collaboration, and employee well-being. I should know, I’ve spent over 18 years studying and learning how businesses and organisations can improve, one concept stands out for it’s simplicity and profound impact; Humble Inquiry.
What is Humble Inquiry?
Humble Inquiry is a communication technique developed by Edgar Schein, a prominent figure in the field of organizational psychology and culture. After investing his career in change management and researching what builds organisations that thrive, Schein found that the relationships between a team are imperative.
At its core, Humble Inquiry is a way of asking questions that builds trust, deepens relationships, and elicits valuable information.
Key elements of Humble Inquiry
- Curiosity and Openness: Asking quality questions encourages individuals to approach conversations with a genuine curiosity about the other person’s thoughts, feelings, and experiences. It’s about being open to learning from others.
- Listening Actively: Active listening is fundamental. It involves giving your full attention to the speaker, demonstrating empathy, and avoiding interrupting or imposing your own agenda.
- Respect and Inclusiveness: We should acknowledge that each person possesses unique knowledge and expertise and respect the idea that everyone has something to contribute and make space to explore ideas and concepts.
- Vulnerability: Being humble in your inquiries also means being willing to admit your lack of knowledge or understanding in certain areas. It’s a recognition that no one has all the answers and the humility to put your own ideas aside in order to engage with others in the room.
Improving Workplace Culture
Now that we have a basic understanding of ‘what is Humble Inquiry’, let’s explore how implementing it at work can lead to improving workplace culture. When your staff begin using it at meetings, staff reviews, planning sessions and general discussions, it’s likely to:
Foster trust and psychological safety
In a workplace where asking positive questions is practiced, employees feel valued and respected. When colleagues and leaders genuinely seek input and listen without judgment, it creates an environment of trust and psychological safety. Employees are more likely to speak up, share their concerns, and collaborate effectively when they know their voices are heard and respected.
Build stronger relationships
Effective communication is the cornerstone of healthy relationships, both personal and professional. Quality questioning promotes meaningful interactions and helps individuals connect on a deeper level. By showing an interest in others’ perspectives and experiences, you can build stronger and more authentic relationships with your colleagues.
Encourage knowledge sharing
Every employee in your business possesses a wealth of knowledge and insights. Humble Inquiry encourages individuals to share expertise openly. When knowledge flows freely within a workplace, it leads to better decision-making, problem-solving, and innovation.
A workplace that embraces Humble Inquiry is more likely to be inclusive. When all voices are heard and valued, it creates an environment where diversity is appreciated, and different perspectives contribute to a richer and more comprehensive understanding of issues.
Enhance problem solving
Humble Inquiry is a powerful tool for problem-solving. When faced with complex challenges or conflicts, asking open-ended, non-judgmental questions can help uncover the root causes and identify effective solutions. It encourages a collaborative approach to finding answers.
Nurture leadership qualities
Leaders who practice Humble Inquiry are more approachable and empathetic. This leadership style can have a positive impact on employee morale and engagement. It also sets an example for others in the organisation to adopt similar communication practices.
Reduce misunderstandings and mistakes
Miscommunications and misunderstandings can be detrimental to workplace relationships. Humble Inquiry minimises the chances of misinterpretation by encouraging clarifying questions and active listening. This leads to more effective and efficient communication.
Implementing Humble Inquiry in Your Workplace
If you’re looking to build a more considerate, productive and collaborative workplace, consider the following steps:
- Training and Workshops: Offer training sessions and workshops to educate employees and leaders about the principles and techniques of Humble Inquiry. **Get in touch if you need some help or ideas.
- Lead by Example: Encourage leaders to model humility in their interactions with team members and colleagues.
- Feedback and Recognition: Provide feedback and recognition for those who practice Humble Inquiry effectively, reinforcing the desired behaviour.
- Create Safe Spaces: Ensure that employees feel safe and comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas, free from judgment or criticism.
- Regular Practice: Make asking questions a regular practice in team meetings, one-on-one discussions, and problem-solving sessions.
By adopting a mindset of curiosity, respect, and active listening, your workplace can create an environment that values open communication, trust, and inclusivity.
When staff feel heard and valued, they will become engaged, innovative, and motivated. As you integrate Humble Inquiry into your workplace, you’ll discover that it’s not just a communication technique but a transformational approach to building a culture of mutual respect and collaboration.