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  • Writer's pictureJonathan Bullock

A quick guide to asking the right questions

It's a common mistake to assume that there's always a single right answer. Leaders, particularly those with an analytical background, often make this mistake. Instead of guiding their team to an answer, they feel the need to tell them 'the' answer.

However, leaders generally want a team that can think for themselves, problem-solve and act mostly independently. So, why is it that most leaders fail to foster this culture in their teams? One of the common failings I've seen is the way leaders ask their team questions.

I want to share with you what I've learnt about what makes a great question.

Keep the question simple. If your question is a complex sentence or seems to have its own story, it is almost definitely too long and complicated.

Be curious with your questions. As opposed to leading questions, curious questions encourage independent opinion and thought. An example of a curious question is: What are your options? Leading questions can still be used as long as they are to encourage further potential discovery.

Keep the questions open. A closed question is one with a yes or no answer. Avoid these as they encourage the idea that there is only one right answer. Instead, ask open questions, which encourage independent thought and problem-solving.

Stick with 'what' and 'how' questions and avoid 'why'. Contrary to popular opinion, 'why' questions are not always the best questions as they can come across as an accusation. Sticking to questions that start with 'what' and 'how' keeps the conversation more factual and less emotive.

Ask reflective questions. As opposed to informational questions, reflective questions require someone to think about their own actions or thought processes. In our busy lives, time for self-reflection is scarce and these types of questions can help to encourage that.

TAKEAWAY: Asking the wrong types of questions can hamper or diminish your team’s abilities. These five tips helped me to improve the questions I was asking my team which led to much better outcomes for our company.


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