Four Ways to Ask Questions Like a Leader
Curiosity takes you further than knowledge. The bottleneck in the room is the leader who has all the answers when there are competent people at the table.
Telling is easy. If you doubt this idea, try asking three questions before making one statement.
The best questions:
#1. Have slow answers.
Ordinary questions garner quick responses. Great questions make you pause.
Pat yourself on the back when people respond, “I never thought of it that way,” to one of your questions.
Smile when someone responds, “I don’t know,” to your question. That’s the moment you’ve been waiting for. Don’t give an answer. Let them stumble until the light comes on.
Sit in silence when someone contemplates a question you asked. Relax. Don’t ask another question. Just wait.
#2. Challenge assumptions.
A closed mind asks questions to confirm conclusions.
Jumpstart a closed mind in four steps.
- Restate their conclusion. “Am I understanding you?” Don’t pressure people to defend their idea. Be sure you understand. It doesn’t matter if you agree or not.
- Ask them to imagine their decision or idea goes tragically wrong.
- “Tell me the story of how things went wrong.”
- “Tell what you didn’t do that caused you to fail.”
- “Tell me what you did that didn’t work.”
- Ask, “What’s shifting in your thinking?” You aren’t trying to convince them to stop. You’re creating space for them to move forward skillfully.
- “What’s the next step?”
#3. Move from theory to practice.
- Stupid sounds smart in your head.
- Tough seems easy when you haven’t begun.
#4. Press into the future.
“Around here, however, we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we’re curious…and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” Walt Disney Company
What blocks curiosity?
What do the best questions do?
One way to block curiosity is pride and the false idea one has reached.
Best questions help shifts one’s consciousness from a place of being stuck to opening new possibilities. It also uncaps creativity within to explore the world in a different way.
Good post Dan. I think one trait/characteristic of a leader is to ask the right questions. In my opinion, the right questions are not judgmental, get to the heart of an issue, and empowers people to think differently. Asking “why” is important to getting to the heart of an issue.
Curiosity block your creativity, innovation and original thought. I believed that curiosity is a gift as well, curiosity are primarily learned behaviors.
As I’m learning to work with and lead a new team, I’m trying to be very intentional about asking questions. They are the experts with the technical and institutional knowledge. In the vast majority of cases, they know the answer. My role is to help them filter through everything they know or to help them synthesize multiple ideas into the right solution.
Currently, I’m reading Maxwell’s Good Leaders Ask Great Questions, which is complements the ideas Dan shared. I’d highly recommend it.
In marketing/sales most of what we need to know is locked inside the customer/prospect/suspect.. Questions open the door.
Thanks Dan for yet another insightful piece. I think curiosity is blocked when we judge others for what they say and are closed to possibility. Holding on to our idea, perspective, opinion so we can not be in a place of ambiguity stops curiosity.
The best questions open everyone to possibility, what could be. They allow everyone to look at any situation differently, to explore options and discover new opportunities. Questions help us see, hear and understand others.
Leaders (Parents) can block curiosity, we feel like we have to have an answer instead of supporting team members as they investigate to find their own answers. We were eating at a small restaurant outside of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and we could hear cars running on the track. My daughter asked “can we go and see the cars.” I said “no they are just practicing.” Can we drive by and see from the outside. “We won’t be able to see the track, but I will drive you over that way so you can see the entrance.” “Dad the entrance looks open” “I am sure they won’t let us in, but there is a place on the outside, maybe we can climb the stairs and see in.” Dad there are people standing on the infield.” It is probably a special event, we will drive by the entrance and turn in.” “Dad is looks like we don’t have to pay.”…… And that is how we got to get into the infield at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to watch training races and the child became the teacher…..