Creating a Culture of We

Does your organization have a Questioning Culture?  Michael Marquardt suggests that a questioning culture exists when we ask questions of others and invite them to search for the answers with us.  By doing this we not only share information with each other, we also share the responsibility for answering the tough questions associated with problems that we face.  Does your organization display a list of “shared values”?  A questioning culture encourages an environment that engages people throughout the organization listening, appreciating, building consensus, and resolving conflict.


When leaders ask questions, they gain insight into what others hope to create, what values they prize, and behaviors they desire.  In answer-driven organizations, curiosity blooms and individuals feel safe to take risks and challenge the status quo.  Such a questioning culture has six hallmarks identified by Marquardt in his book, Leading with Questions, (2005, p.29).  Let’s take a look at these.

When an organization has a questioning culture, the people in it:

  • Are willing to admit, “I don’t know.”
  • Go beyond allowing questions; they encourage questions.
  • Are helped to develop the skills needed to ask questions in a positive way.
  • Focus on asking empowering questions and avoid disempowering questions.
  • Emphasize the process of asking questions and searching for answers rather than finding the “right” answers (click here for related article).
  • Accept and reward risk taking.

In our webinar, Begin by Sculpting a Learning Organization, the model we shared focused on learning that happens at the individual, team and organizational levels.  Learning depends on curiosity and curiosity is associated with asking questions.  A learning organization asks questions and builds a culture of we, not one of you versus me or management versus employees or employees versus volunteers.  We are engaged in addressing questions that build a stronger understanding of each other and what we hold as important for the organization.  We have a shared responsibility to find the most appropriate decision for the issues we face.  We look for answers together, inviting all voices to be heard and all perspectives to have a voice.

The quality of the decisions made in the organization is greatly enhanced if a questioning culture is active and strong.  Is it alive and well in your organization?


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