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5 ways to ask the right questions

by on
in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills

Next to the art of listening, the art of asking good questions will help you more than anything else in your leadership training. If you ask questions well, you can solve problems, manage tough situations and more easily influence everything that happens.

Here’s how:
  1. Make questions open-ended, starting with “what” and “how,” as in, “What does that mean?” “What result do you want?” and “How do we do that?” Your questions should make people stop and think.

  2. Keep them short and simple. They may sound dumb. They’re not.

  3. Avoid “why” questions. Delving into the past only makes people defensive. This doesn’t mean you should squelch anybody’s curiosity. It just means you’re not perceived as pointing a finger in blame.

  4. Use “we” to support teamwork. Your questions should help everybody learn, and they should encourage problem-solving.

  5. Remember: Powerful questions are nonjudgmental with no right or wrong answers: How could you have an answer if you’re still asking questions? Never assume that as the leader, you must have all the answers. Instead, try: “What would that get us?”
Lesson: Asking good questions will help your team learn, solve problems and create new possibilities.

—Adapted from Coaching Yourself to Leadership, Ginny O’Brien, HRD Press.

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