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Ask a Better Question
Asking great questions is a skill in short supply, even among some very good leaders.
The benefits of great questions go beyond expanding knowledge and gaining insight. Well-constructed questions can build trust and rapport with others and guide them to, rather than tell them, what they are missing. Of the many tools of leadership, great questions are unequaled in their value and impact.
Great questions don’t have to be complex or clever or brilliant. They simply have to get others talking. The power of a superbly crafted question to get people to share their views is amazing. As a result, good leaders spend considerable time formulating, borrowing, and revising questions they believe will expand the conversation and allow for insight and connection. The best questions are on occasion thought-provoking and challenging, but they are always expansive and empowering, creating a space for others to share their views.
Like many things leadership, learning from others through questions is more about the questioner than the answerer. Whenever good leaders don't like the answer to a question they pose, they know it's due to the question, not the responder.
The rule good leaders live by is this: If I don’t like the answer, I need to ask a better question.
Learning what others think and experience is what all good leaders are ultimately after. When they receive single-word answers, grunts, or replies without description from others, including children, leaders presume it is the question and not the responder that is responsible.
Asking someone, “How was your day?” may elicit a wide variety of responses, including the lazy reply of, “Fine.” In the eyes of a good leader, this is more a function of the question than it is the responder. Ask a better question, such as, “What was the best thing that happened today?” Suddenly, the other person begins to talk.
Learning to ask better questions requires trial and error. With an eye toward what gets others to share, open up, and express their honest viewpoints, leaders begin to appreciate what makes some questions better than others. They soon appreciate it is not the answer that illuminates what people think, but the question that breaks down the door. Better questions get better answers. Did you know that?