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.