The Danger in Leading Questions

I’m a big fan of the power of questions. I’ve written about that on this blog, and my blog on my website many times. But there are times when questions can be tricky, or even dangerous. I’ve asked the following question many times in different ways.

Here’s the question, and my answer …

“If I know the answer I want, can I use questions to lead my team to the same conclusion?”

Maybe.

Once.

The questionable advice given to you and often shared, is that you can ask leading questions to help people see your perspective and eventually agree with you. Let’s say, for example, you wanted to paint the conference room wall blue. Could you use questions to get the group to realize the room needed updating, and eventually get them to paint and use blue paint at that?

The goal of this kind of approach is admirable — to get the group in agreement with a decision. The approach, though, is dangerous and short sighted. Using questions this way may seem like a good idea, especially if you get to the answer you were hoping for. However, the whole process wasn’t really about the group — it was about you manipulating the group to come to a decision you have already come to.

Remember that people have pretty good B.S. meters and will eventually catch on to this ploy, leading to smashed trust and little chance they will engage it in the future.

The biggest risk is that in the future, when you really do want and need their input, it will be withheld. Their thinking will be, what is the point, after all?

There are times for you to make a decision unilaterally, and in those cases, make them. There will be times when you really want the group’s input and perspective. When you need it, ask for it. But if you already have decided, share the decision — don’t ask for opinions. Taking that open approach will be more efficient, and will, over time, build trust with your team.