Asking Effective Questions

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The Navigator – Maximizing the Impact of your Questions…

When was the last time you paused to assess your ability to ask impactful questions?

Reading nearly any leadership article reminds us that asking effective questions is a strong mechanism for increasing awareness (self and others), making better decisions and impacting both employee engagement and bottom-line results.

In the 2009 white paper, Transforming Your Organization by John McGuire, Charles Palus, William Pasmore and Gary Rhodes, the research indicates that the highest need in organizations in terms of competencies is to increase collaborative leadership. The authors advocate that leaders need to slow down action, conversation and decision making. Questions can help leaders spend more time at the root level of issues – building more understanding and gaining greater agreement.

It can be helpful to check in on your purpose and mindset for asking questions. Questions such as…Why are you behind schedule?…Whose idea was that?…are not likely to achieve the results you are looking for. Complete the following checklist:

  • Am I asking questions in an open way to explore the situation/issue?
  • Am I asking questions with the intent to create awareness and support learning?
  • Am I asking questions that invite the other person to look beyond problems towards future outcomes?
  • Am I asking questions in a way that facilitates openness versus defensiveness?
  • Am I asking questions to help identify a best option rather than force my opinions?
  • Am I asking questions that will help move the person towards commitment and action?
  • Am I asking simple questions, one at a time?
  • Am I asking questions and staying silent – leaving space for the person to respond?

Questions, when used correctly, help to keep leaders in a curious place and also provide a great opportunity to demonstrate strong listening.

Effective questions:

  • Fit the flow of the conversation
  • Support learning
  • Build awareness
  • Engage a personal response
  • Focus on expanding options
  • Challenge assumptions that may be at play and get in the way of the outcome
  • Are worded and expressed in a non-judgemental way
  • Explore possibilities rather than manipulate outcomes

Consider the following examples of questions to add to your toolkit:

  • What are possible ways to approach this?
  • What are some of the options you have identified so far?
  • What would the ideal look like?
  • How would you describe the situation?
  • How else can you look at the situation? What’s a different perspective?
  • How does this fit with your current priorities?
  • What makes this important to you right now?
  • What is your next step?
  • What support will you need?
  • What’s the evidence for this?
  • Can I share a suggestion?
  • How do you feel about the situation?
  • If you were standing in your colleague’s shoes, what would you see?
  • How could you modify your approach?
  • What might get in the way? How would you deal with that?

Take one of the following actions:

  1. Observe other leaders and make note of powerful questions they use.
  2. Assess your current questioning ability – keep track of the types of questions you ask and the impact.
  3. Ask for feedback.
  4. Identify some resources that could help you grow your questioning skills – articles, books, or You Tube videos such as Coaching: The Power of Questions.
  5. Be in touch with Latitude44 to assess your needs and options.