Asking the Right Question

April 11th, 2012

Leaders talk too much. Myself included. We can’t wait to give the answer. Sometimes it’s to move on to something more important. Other times it’s because we simply know the answer and can’t wait to be helpful. But are you sure your people want the answer? I know from my wife, Kim, that so many times we just want to be listened to. We don’t want a problem solved or to hear a diatribe on the subject.

But what everyone can appreciate is the right question. The right questions demonstrate interest, that you care, that you take people and their work seriously. And you know what? Leaders need to learn to ask questions the right way. The right questions are critical to the right kind of leadership coaching and teaching. They can reinforce organizational values. If you are team-oriented or entrepreneurial, then good questions can reinforce collaboration. If you encourage risk taking, then your questions can help your team frame risks and encourage the right fact-finding to make tough decisions.

I, for one, need a constant personal reminder for this. I think it is because there is no owners manual for a leader to know when to listen and ask questions and when to give the answer. Just as there is no way to know when to tell people what to do and when to ask. Leadership style is both personal and situational.

The great leaders we know listen and ask good questions. Not sure how to do this?

Build your questions around:

  1. Your vision
  2. The values of your organization
  3. Your leadership credo (You do have one right?)

Try it. People might not notice, however, they will like you more. Just ask my wife!

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