A New Chapter: A Leader’s “Humble Inquiry”


It takes courage and humility for a person to seek out the truth about how experiences are really going; this could between friends, family members, a community organization. It can be especially vulnerable for a leader to intentionally uncover what others’ experiences may be by practicing “humble inquiry.”

Edgar Schein is a best selling author and Professor Emeritus of the MIT Sloan School of Management. He has written a book entitled  Humble Inquiry – The Gentle Art of Asking and Not Telling. Schein states that:

Humble inquiry is creating a climate in which you display, through your asking genuine questions, an interest in the other person such that they will want to tell you the truth about what really is going on.

Walter Wong did exactly that in 2014 when the Office of the Registrar, (along with ASUC Student Union, Student Affairs IT, and Administration & Finance) participated in the pilot Gallup Employee Engagement program with Learning & Development. Walter has been a staff member at Cal for 27 years and has served as University Registrar since July 15, 2012. We asked him what has been the biggest lesson learned in the past 2 years since intentionally focusing on workplace culture for his staff. Walter reflects:

It’s been a great reminder that, when nurtured, culture is a bridge and not a barrier. And, that Berkeley staff are eager to collaborate when given an opportunity to do so.

We have featured Walter in one of our “Lead Big” Manager’s Toolkit videos that highlight how our leaders and managers are already building great workplace culture within their teams.

Here are Walter’s words of wisdom of 3 things you can do starting today to help make a better workplace culture:

  1. Commit to one change in improving and making the workplace a priority. Devote the resources, time and energy.
  2. Managers need to know that staff expect them to step up. Actively look for opportunities to make things better–remove unpleasant and sometimes harmful elements from the workplace.
  3. Communicate and be generous about sharing responsibility and credit.

Want to learn more about how to build great workplace culture, achieve your organizational goals, and give your personal best? Check out our Lead Big Toolkit!


One comment

  1. Jenell Padilla · April 29, 2016

    Great video. Walter and his team are awesome!


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