5 Ways to Utilize Questions as Leadership Tools

The most important thing business leaders must do today is to be the ‘chief question-asker’ for their organization.

– Dev Patnaik

Patnaik is quick to add, “The first thing most leaders need to realize is, they’re really bad at asking questions.”

A questioning culture is critical because it can help ensure that creativity and fresh, adaptive thinking flows throughout the organization.

By asking questions, we can analyze, learn, and move forward in the face of uncertainty. However, the questions must be the right ones; the ones that cut to the heart of complexity or enable us to see an old problem in a fresh way.

Nothing has such power to cause a complete mental turnaround as that of a question. Questions spark curiosity, curiosity creates ideas, and ideas lead to making things better.

Questions are powerful means to employ (read unleash) creative potential – potential that would otherwise go untapped and undiscovered.

SOLUTION – Utilize Questions as Leadership Tools

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Leading With Questions: How Leaders Find the Right Solutions by Knowing What to Ask by Michael J. Marquardt

Many leaders are unaware of the amazing power of questions. Our conversations may be full of requests and demands, but all too often we are not asking for honest and informative answers, and we don’t know how to listen effectively to responses. When leaders start encouraging questions from their teams, however, they begin to see amazing results. Knowing the right questions to ask―and the right way to listen―will give any leader the skills to perform well in any situation, effectively communicate a vision to the team, and achieve lasting success across the organization.

Thoroughly revised and updated, Leading with Questions will help you encourage participation and teamwork, foster outside-the-box thinking, empower others, build relationships with customers, solve problems, and more. Michael Marquardt reveals how to determine which questions will lead to solutions to even the most challenging issues. He outlines specific techniques of active listening and follow-up, and helps you understand how questions can improve the way you work with individuals, teams, and organizations.

Now more than ever, Leading with Questions is the definitive guide for becoming a stronger leader by identifying―and asking―the right questions.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

Questioning is more important today than it was yesterday – and will be even more important tomorrow – in helping us figure out what matters, where opportunity lies, and how to get there. We’re all hungry for better answers. But first, we need to learn how to ask the right questions.

Asking more of the right questions reduces the need to have all the answers.

The better we as leaders become at asking effective questions and listening for the answers to those questions, the more consistent we and the people with whom we work can accomplish mutually satisfying objectives, be empowered, reduce resistance, and create a willingness to pursue innovative change.

Asking questions can be, and often is, a very simple process. When, however, you find that you are confronting a very difficult issue, and you want to plan things out ahead of time, it can be useful to follow a simple process.

Breaking the Ice

It is useful to start with casual questions to put people at ease and get them talking. A simple closed question (“Is this a good time to talk?”) can often get the ball rolling. Friendly, open-ended questions (“How’s your day been?”) can be used to encourage the other person to open up.

Setting the Stage

As you are setting the stage, you are framing the question by establishing the context and background for the conversation. Setting the stage is primarily bout you, not the other person. A learner mindset, not a judger mindset, is critical to getting free and honest answers and open conversation.

Asking Your Questions

When asking questions, keep your focus on the questioner and the question. The quality of the response is affected not only by the content of the question but also by its manner of delivery, especially its pace and timing. Remember that you are engaging in a conversation, not an interrogation, and you should be prepared to be questioned in turn as the conversation moves along.

Listening and Showing Interest in the Response

When you get a response, say “thank you.” This will increase the likelihood that you’ll get more and deeper answers the next time you ask. When your questioning respects people’s thought processes, you support their own questioning of long-held assumptions. To be an effective questioner, wait for the answer – don’t provide it yourself.

Following Up 

Someone who has openly and thoughtfully answered your questions deserves to know what you did the with information. The process will have to produce meaningful, positive change. By learning how to follow up efficiently and effectively in an extremely busy world, leaders will enable key stakeholders to see the positive actions that result from the input they were requested to provide.

Michael J. Marquardt, Leading With Questions: How Leaders Find the Right Solutions by Knowing What to Ask

A NEXT STEP 

By consciously adopting a learning mindset, we can become more open to new possibilities and ask questions more effectively.

Author Michael Marquardt provided the following suggestions to help you coach others and adopt a learning attitude:

  • Respond without judging the thoughts, feelings, or situations of other people.
  • Consider yourself a beginner, regardless of experience.
  • Avoid focusing on your own role and take the role of an outside observer, researcher, or reporter.
  • Look at the situation from multiple perspectives, especially your respondents’.
  • Look for win-win solutions.
  • Be tolerant of yourself and others.
  • Ask clarifying questions.
  • Accept change as a constant, and embrace it.

Spend a few minutes in prayer, asking God for wisdom and discernment in your own growth as a leader. After this time, re-read the above list, and decide which action should be a seven-day focus for you. Make a list of people and situations in which you can employ this action, and spend the next few days intentionally pursing growth in this area. Revisit the list in a week and repeat as necessary.

8 Reasons Great Leaders Understand the Value of Questions

The most important thing business leaders must do today is to be the ‘chief question-asker’ for their organization. – Dev Patnaik

Patnaik is quick to add, “The first thing most leaders need to realize is, they’re really bad at asking questions.”

A questioning culture is critical because it can help ensure that creativity and fresh, adaptive thinking flows throughout the organization.

By asking questions, we can analyze, learn, and move forward in the face of uncertainty. However, the questions must be the right ones; the ones that cut to the heart of complexity or enable us to see an old problem in a fresh way.

Nothing has such power to cause a complete mental turnaround as that of a question. Questions spark curiosity, curiosity creates ideas, and ideas lead to making things better.

Questions are powerful means to employ – read “unleash” – creative potential – potential that would otherwise go untapped and undiscovered.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – – Good Leaders Ask Great Questions by John Maxwell

John Maxwell, America’s #1 leadership authority, has mastered the art of asking questions, using them to learn and grow, connect with people, challenge himself, improve his team, and develop better ideas. Questions have literally changed Maxwell’s life. 

In Good Leaders Ask Great Questions, he shows how they can change yours, teaching why questions are so important, what questions you should ask yourself as a leader, and what questions you should be asking your team.

Maxwell also opened the floodgates and invited people from around the world to ask him any leadership question. He answers seventy of them – the best of the best.

No matter whether you are a seasoned leader at the top of your game or a newcomer wanting to take the first steps into leadership, this book will change the way you look at questions and improve your leadership life.

A SIMPLE SOLUTIONGood Leaders Ask Great Questions by John Maxwell

Good questioners tend to be aware of, and quite comfortable with, their own ignorance.

The impulse is to keep plowing ahead, doing what we’ve done, and rarely stepping back to question whether we’re on the right path. On the big questions of finding meaning, fulfillment, and happiness, we’re deluged with answers—in the form of off-the-shelf advice, tips, strategies from experts and gurus. It shouldn’t be any wonder if those generic solutions don’t quite fit: To get to our answers, we must formulate and work through the questions ourselves. Yet who has the time or patience for it?

If you want to be successful and reach your leadership potential, you need to embrace asking questions as a lifestyle.

John Maxwell

You Only Get Answers to the Questions You Ask

There is a gigantic difference between the person who has no questions to help him/her process situations and the person who has profound questions available.

Questions Unlock and Open Doors That Otherwise Remain Closed

Successful leaders relentlessly ask questions and have an incurable desire to pick the brains of the people they meet.

Questions Are the Most Effective Means of Connecting With People

Before we communicate we must establish commonality, and the most effective way to connect with others is by asking questions.

Questions Cultivate Humility

If you are unwilling to be wrong, you will be unable to discover what is right.

Questions Help You to Engage Others in Conversation

Asking questions helps people know that you value them, and that, if possible, you want to add value to them.

Questions Allow Us to Build Better Ideas

Any idea gets better when the right people get a chance to add to it and improve it. Good ideas can become great ones when people work together to improve them.

Questions Give Us a Different Perspective

By asking questions and listening carefully to answers, we can discover valuable perspectives other than our own.

Questions Change Mindsets and Get You Out of Ruts

If you want to make discoveries, if you want to disrupt the status quo, if you want to make progress and find new ways of thinking and doing, ask questions.

Remember: good questions inform; great questions transform.

John Maxwell, Good Leaders Ask Great Questions

A NEXT STEP

On the top of four chart tablets, write the four phrases listed below:

  • Questions Help You to Engage Others in Conversation
  • Questions Allow Us to Build Better Ideas
  • Questions Give Us a Different Perspective
  • Questions Change Mindsets and Get You Out of Ruts

Review the explantation given for each in the excerpt above, and then spend 15 minutes with each question, listing as many questions under each category as you can.

At the end of the hour brainstorming session, review your lists, and circle the top three in each category.

Intentionally weave these questions in your conversations and discussions over the next two weeks, consciously noting how asking the questions changed the direction of the conversation (both positively and negatively).

At the end of this two-week period, evaluate how you can make questions a regular part of your leadership habits.

Are You Asking the Right Questions?

Our capacity for learning is a part of being a human being. From birth, we are on a fast track of learning – movement, speech, understanding, and so forth. Unfortunately, many people equate “learning” with “schooling,” and when you’re done with school, you’re done with learning.

We are uniquely endowed with the capacity for learning, creating, and growing intellectually – and it doesn’t have an expiration date tied to an event, like graduation.

The practice of lifelong learning has never been more important to leaders than it is today. The necessity of expanding your knowledge through lifelong learning is critical to your success.

Take reading, for example. Many of the most successful people in today’s organizations read an average of 2-3 hours per day. No longer limited to books, reading is a lifelong learning activity that can be done online anywhere at anytime.

Learning is the minimum requirement for success as a leader. Because information and knowledge on everything is increasing every day, your knowledge must also increase to keep up.

Learning how to learn is more important than ever. Dedicate yourself to trying and learning new ideas, tasks, and skills. You don’t need to be aware of everything all the time but learning new skills faster and better – that in itself is a tough skill to master.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – The Book of Beautiful Questions by Warren Berger

From the bestselling author of A More Beautiful Question, hundreds of big and small questions that harness the magic of inquiry to tackle challenges we all face–at work, in our relationships, and beyond.

By asking questions, we can analyze, learn, and move forward in the face of uncertainty. But “questionologist” Warren Berger says that the questions must be the right ones; the ones that cut to the heart of complexity or enable us to see an old problem in a fresh way.

In The Book of Beautiful Questions, Berger shares illuminating stories and compelling research on the power of inquiry. Drawn from the insights and expertise of psychologists, innovators, effective leaders, and some of the world’s foremost creative thinkers, he presents the essential questions readers need to make the best choices when it truly counts, with a particular focus in four key areas: decision making, creativity, leadership, and relationships.

The powerful questions in this book can help you:
– Identify opportunities in your career or industry
– Generate fresh ideas in business or in your own creative pursuits
– Check your biases so you can make better judgments and decisions
– Do a better job of communicating and connecting with the people around you

Thoughtful, provocative, and actionable, these beautiful questions can be applied immediately to bring about change in your work or your everyday life.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

Nothing has such power to cause a complete mental turnaround as that of a question. Questions spark curiosity, curiosity creates ideas, and ideas lead to making things better.

Questions are powerful means to employ (read unleash) creative potential – potential that would otherwise go untapped and undiscovered.

When we are confronted with almost any demanding situation, in work or in life, simply taking the time and effort to ask questions can help guide us to better decisions and a more productive course of action. But the questions must be the right ones – the ones that cut to the heart of a complex challenge or enable us to see an old problem in a new light.

Questions can help steer you in the right direction at critical moments when you’re trying to 1) decide on something; 2) create something; 3) connect with other people; and 4) be a good and effective leader.

Decision-making demands critical thinking – which is rooted in questioning. It’s up to each of us to make more enlightened judgments and choices. Asking oneself a few well-considered questions before deciding on something can be surprisingly effective in helping to avoid the common traps of decision-making.

Creativity often depends on our ability, and willingness, to grapple with challenging questions that can fire the imagination. For people within an organization trying to innovate by coming up with fresh ideas for a new offering or an individual attempting to express a vision in a fresh and compelling way, the creative path is a journey of inquiry.

Our success in connecting with others can be improved dramatically by asking more questions – of ourselves and of the people with whom we’re trying to relate. While many of us tend to rely on generic “How are you?” questions, more thoughtful and purposeful questions can do a better job of breaking the ice with strangers or bonding with clients and colleagues.

Leadership is not usually associated with questions – leaders are supposed to have all the answers – but it is becoming increasingly clear that the best leaders are those with the confidence and humility to ask the ambitious, unexpected questions that no one else is asking. Today’s leaders must ask the questions that anticipate and address the needs of an organization and its people, questions that set the tone for curious exploration and innovation, and questions that frame a larger challenge others can rally around.

Warren Berger, The Book of Beautiful Questions

A NEXT STEP

Developing the art of questioning does not require an advanced degree. As a matter of fact, one of the best ways to learn how to become a better questioner is to learn from the typical four-year-old girl.

If you have ever been a parent, you understand this. Studies show that children at this age may ask anywhere from 100 to 300 questions per day. While it may seem like child’s play, it’s actually a complex, high-order level of thinking. It requires enough awareness to know that one does not know – and the ingenuity to begin to do something about it.

Ask “why.”

To begin to develop the abilities of a better questioner, consider the broad questions developed by author Warren Berger in each of the four areas listed above.

Decision-making

  • Why do I believe what I believe? (And what if I’m wrong?)
  • Why should I accept what I’m told?
  • What if this isn’t a “yes or no” decision?
  • How would I later explain this decision to others?

Creativity

  • Why create?
  • Where did my creativity go?
  • What is the world missing?
  • What if I allow myself to begin anywhere?

Connecting with others

  • Why connect?
  • What if I go beyond “How are you?”
  • How might I listen with my whole body?
  • What if I advise less and inquire more?

Leadership

  • Why do I choose to lead?
  • What’s going on out there – and how can I help?
  • Am I looking for what’s broken – or what’s working?
  • Do I really want a culture of curiosity?

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 113-3, released February 2019


 

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

>> Purchase prior issues of SUMS Remix here<<