Recently I have had the pleasure of spending time at 2 meetings with, let us call him, John from Uganda.
After a little while, I noticed that John had the habit of quietly raising his hand (yes, it is possible to raise your hand quietly) and asking a question.
And often the question was about someone else's question. Had we understood this question correctly? And, if so, had the answer that had been given to this question been satisfactory? And very often, the answer to both of John's questions was 'no'.
And so we would probe a little further into the question and often a lot further into the answer. And often this was a wonderful opportunity to learn.
And I understood how rarely that I listened hard to the questions that people asked of other people. And how even more rarely I listened to the answer. And almost never did I deliberately consider if the answer REALLY addressed the question that had been asked.
And what I have learned over the last few weeks is that when somone asks a question they have a concern or are puzzled, and that is often an excellent opportunity to listen and to learn.
Now when someone asks a question in a meeting, I listen hard and then ask myself:
• Have I understood the question?
• Have I understood the answer?
• Does the answer respond to the question?
And when my answer to the last question is no, I raise my hand quietly.
So thank you John from Uganda.