My last article talked about why ask questions if we know the answer. It makes sense to do this because things are changing so quickly around us. What might have been true in the past may longer be so. While this is an important purpose, there are other reasons to ask questions. We don’t only need to ask questions to figure out the answer. If we ask the right question, we can achieve so much more.
What are the right questions?
We can ask questions to build commitment to take action. This type of questioning is part of the leader as coach role. Coaching is a key skill for all leaders. It is a powerful way to get things done by generating motivation and capability in those around us. Let’s explore questioning in the context of ‘Leader as Coach’.
Asking questions to learn is an important part of this leadership role. I characterize these questions as ‘Inquiry and Listening’. Examples include:
“Why is this challenging?”
“How would the other person involved describe the situation?”
By asking these questions, we encourage the person we are coaching to find their own answer. It is the solution that works for them and avoids the pitfall of giving advice. ‘If I were you, I would do X’. The problem is you are not them and your solution may not be the most appropriate.
Asking questions to build commitment
Another reason to ask questions is to build commitment. These questions connect to care and build motivation. Here are some examples:
“What’s the cost of not taking action?”
“What barriers stand in your way?”
“If you knew you couldn’t fail, what would you do now?”
It is very easy to come up with an idea or solution and then jump to action. By asking these questions, we increase the chances of a successful outcome. That may be anticipating what could go wrong or by clarifying what success looks like.
The key to asking the right questions is planning. Think about the conversation and plan the questions you will ask. Most of my clients find it useful to create a set of basic questions that act as conversation starters. The examples above serve this purpose.
The next time you have to help someone overcome a challenge, think about the questions you will ask. What ones do I need to ask to fully understand the situation? What questions will build commitment and increase the likelihood of a successful outcome? When you become skilled at asking questions, you will learn so much more from your conversations. And more importantly, the people around you will enjoying talking with you.