Asking again and again to make sure you’re headed in the right direction

by | Apr 27, 2023

This week’s tale is inspired by the roosters in Puerto Rico where we were on vacay a few weeks ago. 

I’ve got a thing about roosters. It’s not a good thing. My time in the Peace Corps in Panamá taught me many valuable lessons, one of which was that children’s books lie. Roosters don’t cockadoodledo when the sun rises. They cockadoodledo around the clock. They are loud. And annoying. I do not like roosters. 

Puerto Rico has its fair share of those freaky fowls and as I chilled in the hammock listening to their grating cry, they brought me back to Pamana. 

I remembered during our in-country training, one of the PCVs (Peace Corps Volunteers) gave us the helpful hint to ask questions. Constantly. He was referring specifically to traveling throughout the country because there were bus “schedules” but that term was very loosely interpreted. 

Admittedly at first, I had peña as the Panamanians would say—shyness–around asking questions. I already stood out as the blond-haired, blue-eyed gringa. After hearing a few tales of PCVs getting stranded in undesirable locations, I got over that peña real quick and started asking questions constantly. 

9:40 Erin: What time does the bus leave?

Bus driver: 10. 

9:42 Erin: Is this the bus to Hicaco? 

Bus driver: Sí

9:45 Erin: Does the bus leave at ten? 

Bus driver. Sí

9:47 Erin: What time does the bus leave?

Bus driver: 10. 

9:47 Bus driver: DALE! SALIMOS! 

While on the bus at every stop: 

Is this Hicaco? No

Is this Hicaco? No

Is this Hicaco? No

(Don’t ask at one stop.)

Next stop: Is this Hicaco? No! It was the last stop! 

We’re not talking velvet seated coach services. We’re talking sprinter-like vans from the 1990s which were barely road-worthy, had seats with springs popping out, definitely didn’t have AC, and often did have roosters as their passengers. 

If you missed your stop, It wasn’t as if you could jump on the next one coming through every 15 minutes. It could be days. 

You learned to ask questions. Over and over. 

You didn’t care what people thought. 

You learned to ask multiple people. 

You learned to adapt and expect changes and run to the next bus line across the parking lot at the last minute. 

You learned that even though you spoke Spanish when you look like a gringa, the pavos (bus driver-type-people) would first ignore your Spanish because they didn’t get that it could come from a white person’s mouth. Then after you asked for the 45th time, they would start to get it, and if you were lucky they would tell you where your stop was. 

I always kept asking. 

As I was taking in the sea breezes in Rincón, I couldn’t help but think that the “ask questions constantly” mantra is applicable to leaders as well. 

Ask your people how they are doing.

Ask your people what they think about a process.

Ask your people what they think about the culture. 

Ask your people what they think you’re doing well.

Ask your people what they think you could work on, your blindspots. 

Then keep asking over and over and over. 

The thing is, they might not tell you at first. As leaders, the tendency is to tell and not ask. We think we’re supposed to know the answers. More often than not, your people have the answers you’re looking for. They might not get it, or trust it, the first time you ask. So ask again. 

They might not think you really care. Show them you do by appreciating their input, acting on it when appropriate, and at the least acknowledging that you heard them. 

Keep asking to get the insights you need from the people that are in the mix and perhaps see the road better than you, to make sure you’re headed in the right direction. 

I blame them for my not being in your inbox for the past few weeks. (Of course, I’m joking, I would never blame shift or point fingers and not take responsibility for my own actions! #connectioncrasher)


Join My List!


Are you tired of reading the same regurgitated information? Do you want to learn
fresh, new connection tactics that your competition doesn’t know about? Just click the button below to subscribe today to get the latest news, updates and special offers.