How to Ask Powerful Questions
“Any update on the project?”
“When will you get it fixed?”
“When will you get it done?”
These are some of the questions that managers often ask their employees.
Do you think that these are powerful questions to ask someone?
In the past, Leaders were expected to do these things: give answers and provide solutions.
With the changing times and ever-increasing demand for output and solutions, leaders need to adapt to the rapid change in business pace and modify, if not change, their leadership approach to ensure a smooth-flowing operation among productive and satisfied members who produce results and happy customers.
Why do we ask questions?
According to research done in the 1970s, it was concluded that people ask questions for the following reasons or a combination of these goals:
- To exchange information (Learning)
- To manage impressions (Liking)
Learning how to ask powerful questions and making it a habit is a powerful tool in your hands as a leader.
When you ask questions – powerful ones at that, you create a working environment that promotes learning, exchange of ideas, creativity, individual growth, and team rapport.
If your team is motivated, it is easier to spot potential opportunities as well as business pitfalls that will affect the trajectory of your organization.
Why is asking powerful questions a crucial leadership skill?
Asking powerful questions takes away the blindside all leaders have – this destructive thing called confirmation bias.
According to Daniel Kahneman, a behavioral economist and Nobel Prize awardee in 2017, “Confirmation bias comes from when you have an interpretation, and you adopt it, and then, top down, you force everything to fit that interpretation,”
Event > Your Interpretation > Your Bias
When you reduce your confirmation bias and make a habit of being genuinely interested in others by asking powerful questions, you can better assess situations and people individually as a person or collectively as a team.
How to ask powerful questions?
The Goldilocks Principle
Stephen Shapiro, the author of the book Invisible Solutions: 25 Lenses that Reframe and Help Solve Difficult Business Problems, introduced The Goldilocks Principle which explains why people are so bad at asking questions.
Principle #1: Too Big
These are broad and abstract questions that are too general, thus, making it impossible to get a clear and specific answer.
Principle #2: Too Small
These are overly specific and overly defined questions that are only found in one place or can be answers disguised as questions.
Principle #3: Just Right
These are the right kind of questions that maximize the likelihood of being solved.
Now that we have identified the three question-asking principles, let’s look at the ways you can improve your question-asking skill by looking at the list below.
Ask open-ended questions.
Open-ended questions start with what, why, and how.
These questions create grounds for discussions, and room for realizations compared to close-ended questions that are answerable by “yes” or “no.”
Don’t answer your own question.
Ask probing questions without a fixed answer in mind. Remember that the goal is to get the insights of others.
When you have a set answer you want to hear from your team, the questions you ask will be leading and biased. This will prevent you from getting authentic answers and can feel like you’re asserting your ways and solutions to your team.
Ask one question at a time.
Use clear and specific words as much as possible.
Do not use so many words to avoid confusion. Prevent from asking multiple questions at once since this may cause thought disorganization and further confusion.
Ask follow-up questions.
List down two to three powerful questions (also called full-switch questions) that will achieve the objective of your meeting.
Wait for the interviewee to answer your full-switch question first, then make sure to ask follow-up questions as necessary so you can dig deeper and understand better.
Aha! Moments and realizations happen mostly during the spontaneous discussion.
Mind your tone.
While you may have been using the “official tone” when talking to your colleagues since forever, there is something about this approach that makes your conversation partner want to run as far away from you as possible. Even if you don’t intend to, you may sound cold, distant, and outright unapproachable.
Do you want your team to open up? Make them feel relaxed while engaging in casual conversations.
When asking powerful questions to someone, it is good practice to take into consideration other things such as group dynamics, the other person’s level of transparency, and whether your conversation partner is stating a fact or an assumption.
While there are so many other powerful question-asking skills to add to this list, remember that you only have control over yourself, your thoughts, and your responses.
You do not have control over the other person or your team as well as over their thoughts and responses.
Lastly, listen with a child’s heart and mind.
By staying curious and keeping on asking powerful questions.
Remember to keep an open mind and an open heart and you are sure to discover great things with your team – together.
Churchill Leadership Group is a seasoned and trusted partner for building the soft skills your leaders need. Learn more about our Leader as Great Coach program, where leaders at all levels in your organization develop coaching capabilities, like asking powerful questions, that enable better conversations for more growth and productivity across your organization.
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