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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 thequestions past, I’ve often suggested Charlie Rose and Barbara Walters. Now Barbara mostly retired and Charlie’s gig is changed.

Does that mean my advice has changed?

Yes, a bit.

You might think I would now just give you a different crop of new interviewers on any of the many networks. While many of them have great skills in asking questions, there is a difference in their intention in asking questions, which nuances the value in using them as a positive example for us as leaders.

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 for 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. Being skilled in asking questions aids us as a leader — in problem solving, listening and engaging others, but only if we have our intentions effectively set.

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

Here’s an example of what I mean: Have you ever been asked a question and weren’t sure why you were being asked it or what the real question was? Or, turned around, after you asked a question, it was clear that others were misinterpreting your intention?

Neither of these is a good place to be, and unfortunately, the intention mismatch isn’t always this clear.

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 better results, increased trust and better relationships too.

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