Micromanagers direct. Leaders coach. As a leader, you understand the value of using questions to develop those around you to their highest potential. Questions play a central role in
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Closed (forced-choice) questions often shut people down—or at best, they gain agreement. Closed questions do little to put you inside another person’s head. If you want new information and fresh thinking, start with open-ended questions—those that call for more than a short answer of a word or two. Open-ended questions typically start with why, how, what, to what degree, describe.
Examples: “In what way do you mean?” “Will you describe that situation in more detail?” “How so?” “What would you say is the best way to go about doing that?” “What’s your reaction so far to the plans you’ve heard from Rebecca?” “How committed do you think your team is to this initiative?”
Don’t stop with just one or two questions to understand where someone stands on an issue. Probe several layers: “Why is that?” “When does that happen?” “How much do you estimate that might cost?” “What are the exceptions to what you just said?” “Why do you think most of your team feels that way?” “If that’s the case, how do you think this attitude developed?” “At what point did you start to notice this change in the department?”
Often it’s difficult to tell which is which. You might have to ask the speaker to distinguish facts from opinions: “Specifically what experience or incident are you referring to?” “Would all experts agree with the conclusions you’ve stated?” “What are some of the differing opinions from other experts on this?”
You may even have to ask bluntly (although your tone shouldn’t sound challenging): “What’s your source on that?” “Do you know that’s a fact, or do you think that’s a fact?” “Would you please forward to me those statistics (or that study, that article, that link)?”
Help the other person to consider other viewpoints with these guiding questions: “Who else do you think agrees with you on that?” “Have you thought about who might disagree with you on that approach?” Such questions have the added benefit of airing a different viewpoint for others in a group to hear even though the speaker may not originally be forthcoming with alternative opinions.
To put it succinctly: Asking the right questions is to a discussion what a foundation is to a skyscraper. With the right questions, the conclusions will be built to last.
Learn more tips for effective leadership communication in Communicate Like A Leader: To Coach, Inspire And Get Things Done. Download an excerpt by clicking here or on the image below.