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What’s Behind the Question?

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in Remarkable Leadership with Kevin Eikenberry

I’ve long felt, and taught that one of the best ways to learn better questioning skills was to watch great interviewers. In the past I’ve often suggested Charlie Rose and Barbara Walters. Now Barbara is retired and Charlie’s gig has changed.

Does that mean my advice has changed?

Yes, a bit.

You might think I would just now give you a different crop of new interviewers on any of the many networks. While many of them have great skills, there is a problem with using them as your exemplar — it is their intention.

Mike Wallace asked good questions on 60 minutes, but his intention wasn’t necessarily the same as yours would be (nor did his questioning engage or endear him). Take any top interviewer on MSNBC or Fox News or CNN, and their questions are filled with intentions that are different than ours or what ours should be.

Stick and stones may break our bones, but for most of us, words can too — especially when questions are used as weapons. As leaders and good communicators we must think about as asking better questions, but there is more to great questions than the right words, timing and intonation. There is a caveat too.

The caveat is — your intention.

When you ask questions, please make sure your intention is clear and that intention is valuable and creates the learning, insight and engagement that is so important.

Have you ever been asked a question and you weren’t sure why you were being asked it, or what the real question was? This is an example of what we want to avoid. We want to ask questions for all of the good reasons we have discussed, but we want people to be comfortable in answering. We want the message to be clear, and we want people to feel good about full conversation.

Make your intention clear, let people know why you are asking — and you will avoid questions as traps, and questions as weapons — and you will get the results of better communication, better ideas, higher levels of trust and much more.

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