The Power of the Question: Get Better Results By Saying Less and Asking More

When was the last time you had an a-ha moment? 


Eureka experiences often start the same way – with a question. But as leaders we often talk more than we ask. In our eagerness to solve problems or get things done, we jump straight to saying what we think others need to hear. 


The best leaders don’t give their team all the answers. Instead, they lead by questioning and teach their teams how to have their own a-ha moments that can lead to new ideas, better results and a more rewarding experience for everyone


Why lead-by-questioning works 

Think about a time one of your team members hit a roadblock. Was your first instinct to suggest a solution? On the surface, that seems like the most efficient thing to do. But by giving them an answer, you:

• Cheat them out of a development opportunity;

• Miss the fresh thinking they could offer; and

• Create pressure on yourself to be the lone problem-solver. 


Asking the right questions allows your team member to find a solution herself, learn from the experience, and (perhaps) leave your office skipping down the hall. 


Neuroscience research proves how powerful this leadership technique can be. The moment of insight helps us build confidence, think more creatively and have an increased sense of ownership


As a lead-by-questioning leader, you will also benefit by:

• Building a team of critical thinkers

• Freeing yourself to focus on other issues

• Fostering loyalty because people appreciate you letting them have good ideas too

• Becoming a “multiplying leader” who gets more done by working through others

• Getting better ideas than you could have gotten on your own. 


Asking the right questions

It’s not enough to ask questions. You have to ask the right questions. What doesn’t work is asking problem-focused, loaded questions. For instance:

• Why are things so behind?

• What now?

• Shouldn't you have anticipated this?

• Didn't you think this through?

• How could this have happened? 


These types of questions cause others to go on the defensive and shut down their thinking. Empowering questions, on the other hand, encourage others to:

• Focus on the solution

• Think more deeply

• Find new solutions

• See potential in any situation

• Adopt a growth mindset — “we can figure this out” – rather than a fixed mindset – “we’ve done all we can”

• Trust their own instincts 


Examples of empowering questions include:

• What options are coming to mind?

• Do you see any new possibilities?

• What would you do if you could do anything?

• When you’ve solved similar problems like this, what worked?

• How can we apply those learnings now?

• What’s your gut instinct?

• What is a good next step?

• What can I do to help you from here?

• How will our client feel when we have solved this problem?

• How will you feel when you have found the right solution? 

And here are a few of my all-time favorite questions you can use in any conversation:

·        What's on your mind?

·        What do you want?

·        What matters most?

·        What would success look like?

·        What else are you thinking?

·        What's holding you back?

·        What's the real issue here?

·        How can I help?

Establishing a lead-by-questioning culture

The more you ask great questions, the easier it is for others to do the same. Get things rolling by using empowering questions during team meetings, and encourage your team to lead-by-questioning in their circle of influence. 
There will always be times when you need to give a swift response or provide a critical solution. But helping people think for themselves enables everyone to perform at a higher level. Your team will flourish. You’ll have more time to focus on the big picture. And your organization will have the ideas it needs to succeed in a changing world. 
Remember, you don’t always have to have the answer when you ask someone a question. Neither do they. But by getting everyone thinking, great answers will come.

Copyright (c) 2018 Velocity Collective, LLC. All rights reserved.

Written By

Elise Mitchell

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