The Best Leaders Ask Questions That Work
A question asked at the wrong time is a dumb question. Questions that work fit the situation.
Questions have direction. Questions that work have the right destination.
Tip: Determine where you want to go before you ask a question.
Questions that work:
Questions that clarify goals:
A month from now things are going perfectly. What are you doing? What are others doing? What aren’t you doing?
Frustration tells you what you don’t want. What do you want?
Questions that establish processes:
What’s the next step? Tip: Don’t ask about next steps before you clarify goals.
If things were going perfectly, what would be true on a day-to-day basis?
A month from now, this problem has vanished. What happened? What isn’t happening?
Questions that enable self-reflection:
What are you doing that makes you proud?
How do you want your clients to think of you?
What makes this important to you?
Your eyes just lit up. What’s going on for you?
Questions that overcome reluctance:
What do you get if you do nothing?
What’s the bravest thing you could do today? Short timelines narrow focus and lower anxiety.
What needs to be true for you to take action on this?
One a scale of 0 to 10 how ready are you to act? Why didn’t you choose a lower number? This set of questions helps people find reasons to act.
What small thing could you do this morning to move forward?
Questions that establish accountability:
Use ‘you’ when establishing accountability. Don’t say ‘we’ when you mean ‘you’.
What have you tried?
When will this be done?
Who is responsible to get this done?
When will you take the next step?
What do you want me to ask you when we meet next week?
Enter conversations with more questions than answers.
What questions that work might you add to the above lists?
15 Questions that Change the Way People Think
Good morning. I agree with Jess Lyn Stoner – Dan does ask great questions and shares those questions with us to help make us better leaders. I appreciate you, Dan, and the work you do to keep me learning and growing in my leadership roles.
Thank you, Lisa. It’s a pleasure to serve. Here’s to making it a great week.
How do you intend to fix it?
I also like “why” and “what if” questions.
Why do you feel that way? Why do you think that will work?
What if the customers no longer needs our products? What if we gave our products away free, how could we make money?
Thanks, Paul. “What if” questions seem tap into imagination. Powerful.
I’ve trained myself to begin my questions with “what.” I’m probably over sensitive to this. Reason being, “why” can feel like an accusation. I might say, “What makes that important to you?” But we share the same goal.
I didn’t realize how much of a “we” problem I have. I thought “we” was inclusive and offered support. You say, “Use ‘you’ when establishing accountability. Don’t say ‘we’ when you mean ‘you’.” Right?!? Wow- I have to sit with that and practice it. Thank you, Dan.
Thanks for your transparency, bardohn. I find that some leaders struggle to say, “you.” “We” softens the message. Plus, “we” feels more compassionate. I suppose the trick is to hang on to compassion and still put the ball firmly in someone’s hands.
I wonder if a question feels easier. “What do you want to do next?” Or, “What do you need to do today to get this done?” When I ask, “What do we need to do today to get this done,” it feels like I’m giving myself a job.
Thanks for frequently adding your insights and reflections.
I always look forward to your articles, Dan. I keep a “flashcard” at the ready on my desk thata reads: ASK in red letters. Whenever I am working with leaders and they don’t know something I whip it out. It doesn’t do anyone any favors to guess since we usually guess wrong and it is so much easier to ASK.
Thanks Cindy. Wonderful technique. It feels memorable. One of my favorite things to ask when people say, “I don’t know,” is “Who might know?” They can go search for answers from people who might have useful input. Cheers.
Thanks Cindy, your articles always leave a mark in my leadership. Questioning the right questions at the right time in the right way and to the right person, results into the right response. this is a skill that leaders need. Thank you once again.
Boss: what do you want me to ask you next week?
Me: how’s that 30% salary increase working out for you?
Great questions listed here. I would add that when powerful questions are asked from a place of genuine curiosity and conscious intention rather than judgment, they enable us to better understand another person’s motivations, values, fears, etc. They enable us to connect and lead better.
As for the question, “On a scale of 0 to 10, how ready are you to act?” I would also ask, “Why didn’t you choose a higher number?” Often, that question unearths limiting beliefs, fears, and unconscious blocks that can be further explored.
Great questions listed here. When powerful questions are asked from a place of genuine curiosity and conscious intention, rather than as a means to judge someone else, they enable us to better understand the other person’s motivations, desires, fears, values, etc. They enable us to better lead.
As for the question, “On a scale of 0 to 10, how ready are you to act?”, I would also ask “Why didn’t you choose a higher number?” Often, that question enables us to uncover and explore unconscious fears, limiting beliefs, and other blocks that may be holding the person back.
In closing, I would simply add that questioning should never feel like the inquisition. Question with your heart and your head. Everybody benefits that way.
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