Three Questions that Can Save the Day


One of the most valuable courses I’ve ever taken was Emergency Centre Operations through the Justice Institute of British Columbia.

I was learning how an Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) like the one we had at the City of Vancouver worked.

The instructor was a firefighter who had transitioned into running EOCs and teaching these courses. He had amazing stories of earthquakes, fires and floods and he firmly believed that everyone in that class should walk out with the ability to take control in case of emergency. “You may be the last person standing. You may be the first one to get here and you need to step up and take control.”

The experience was exhilarating and empowering. At the end of two days, I felt that I was ready to take on the Great Vancouver Earthquake. Of all the things I picked up, the thing that stuck with me the most were the three questions you need to have an answer to before you put down the phone at the EOC.

  1. What are you asking me?

  2. What are you telling me?

  3. What do you need me to do?

I went home and realized that these three little questions are the heart of effective communication. I challenge you to start trying to answer these questions every time you write an email or go to a meeting.

You’ll be surprised how much clarity answering these three questions provides. Start asking these questions as much as possible. Getting the facts, knowing what is expected of you and knowing what you need to do will save your skin and quite possibly your sanity.