How to Ask the Right Questions

As leaders we are tasked to generate results.  Our metrics are ultimately based on the solutions that are created and implement by our team.  Because of this, the need for asking the right question is preeminent.

How to Ask the Right Questions:

Question Delimma

In the past we’ve all been in a situation where we’ve made a presentation or turned in a report and our superior asks us a question that we didn’t even consider and didn’t address in our report.  We look embarrassed and kick ourselves afterwards saying, “why didn’t I think to consider that?”

Asking the right question is key, but it’s more than just that. Asking the right question is all about seeing a problem from a different perspective than everyone else.  If you’re able to see the problem in a way no one else is, you’re able to address the issue in a manner that will net results no one even considered; ergo the reason for asking the right question.

How to Ask the Right Questions

When a direct report comes to you for advice on a problem, our natural instinct is to quickly reply with a solution.  It goes to my earlier comment, our performance is measured on the solutions our teams generate.  The first thing to do is to actively listen.  The key to becoming a person who asks the right question is to listen.  What makes you a great leader is that your mind is always going, however it will behoove you to consider the comment your direct report is making.  Then follow up with a question.  It’s in our nature to respond with a solution and a quick solution at that.  Responding with a probing question will enable you to accomplish two goals; the first is gain a greater understanding of the issue and the second item is to help your direct report walk through the issue as well as you question them.

Also, open-ended questions will lead to more than a single word answer and also create engagement with direct reports about the issue.  These types of questions are helpful for gaining more insight on a particular project and exploring opinions.

Types of Questions Not to Ask

Questions that won’t get you the results you’re looking for are:

Leading questions: You don’t want to influence the answer to the question, and leading questions do this; “do you & don’t you” are perfect examples of this.

Multiple questions: When you talk over your questions or ask several questions at once you will never get the answer you want from the question you’re really asking.

Why questions: It’s ok to ask why, but use the word sparingly because it can often be deemed that you are challenging someone and as the leader your influence will cloud the response you receive.  It’s imperative that we understand that if people feel we are challenging them, but in reality we are just probing, they may give us an answer that will appease us as oppose to the real answer.  Ways to ask probing questions while netting the results you’re looking for. You can say, “tell me more about that” or “what do you think the reasons for that is.”

Final Thought

Great Change Happens When Questions are Perspective, Innovative, and Bold

If you’re asking the wrong questions, you’re positioning your group to fail.  As the leader you not only must be asking the right questions, but cultivating an atmosphere of people who ask the right questions and see the project from a perspective that no one else does.


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