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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.”
  3. 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.
  4. “What’s the next step?”

#3. Move from theory to practice.

  1. Stupid sounds smart in your head.
  2. 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?