Ever work for someone who fires off questions like an interrogator? “Is this a good time to talk? What time is the meeting? Who has confirmed that they’re coming? Have you finished the agenda? When will it be ready?”
A manager who asks only closed questions—those requiring specific answers—isn’t going to receive the most creative, resourceful answers. He might even stifle creativity and honest discussion.
Next time you’re asking questions, make sure you’re not an interrogator. Sometimes you need to ask closed questions. But, generally, open questions that begin with a “why” or a “how” will bring more value to your work relationships.
The best open questions:
Create clarity without putting the other person on the defense: Instead of “What’s wrong with the way it is now?” ask, “Can you explain more about your thinking?”
Allow you to build relationships: Instead of “Did you finish the project?” ask, “How is the project going?”
Encourage co-workers to think about solutions, rather than idly complain: “You sound unhappy with the way the process works now. What do you think might improve things?”
Challenge co-workers to step out of a comfort zone: Instead of “I know you enjoyed doing that task yourself, didn’t you?” say, “You work well independently, but maybe there’s a benefit to sharing with Sandy.”