An enduring memory of when my children were small was the seemingly endless questions they asked. I wonder when it is we lose the curiosity to ask questions? Maybe if more questions were asked and less statements made there would be a greater understanding of our colleagues, neighbours, family? Statements at best are assumptions unless the content is very well researched. Questions on the other hand invite dialogue, something much needed in the workplace and in relationships the world over.
It is tempting to make statements about situations and people and therefore make assumptions. I have done it many times myself. What about you? How has that worked out for you? It hasn’t gone so well in my experience.
“If you want to be successful and reach your leadership potential, you need to embrace asking questions as a lifestyle. Because you only get answers to the questions you ask.” John Maxwell
To understand someone or a situation, asking questions will give you clarity. You can make the mistake of believing you understand the situation and therefore, can navigate through it because it looks similar to something you have encountered before. As a leader this can be potentially fatal. No two situations are ever the same and therefore asking powerful questions will enable you to make better decisions.
There is a caveat I need to bring in here. Asking questions is only half the struggle the other half is listening to the answer. Both are critical; asking great questions and listening well are skills which can be learnt and are absolutely crucial for today’s successful leaders.
- Ask questions others enjoy answering – says, Dale Carnegie in his book “How to win friends and influence people.” Sage like advice.
- People do not ask enough questions – practice will improve the questions you ask and the way you do it, it is a virtuous circle the more questions you ask the better at asking good questions you will become.
- When you ask a question be present and listen to the answer, ask follow up questions about what has been said, which shows the other person you have been listening. It shows the other person you respect them and hear them which in turn builds trust.
- Be clear about the information you want. It will help you formulate questions which will get to the right information.
- In asking questions you reveal your heart, generations coming through will want to see what motivates you. It helps them understand your culture.
- Asking questions builds connection – research by Alison Wood Brooks (as reported in HBR May/June 2018) states: “Most people don’t grasp that asking a lot of questions unlocks learning and improves interpersonal bonding.”
Asking powerful questions increases your understanding of a situation, or another individual. If the person is your team member it will increase the connection between you.
Perhaps the situation in Ukraine now would not have happened with more dialogue, more asking questions and less posturing. Noting both parties should want to do so!
“The greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when someone asked me what I thought, and attended to my answer.” – Henry David Thoreau
Everyone wants to be heard. As a coach I have seen first-hand the transforming nature of good questions. We all need clarity to make better decisions and great questions helps us get there.
Let me know what you have discovered about asking questions.