I think we all know that effective leaders ask good questions to move an idea forward, help a team get unstuck, motivate, gain buy-in and build connections.
Being married to an attorney, I have gained a greater appreciation for the tone of a question and the art of asking a question that really could just be a statement.
Hearing what isn’t said (body language) is important, and so is the timing of your next question. Asking it at the right time can make an impact, whether you’re connecting with a client, colleague, family member or friend.
Are you asking the right questions? Here are some of my favorites and how I use them:
- If you had to make a decision today, what would it be?
This is an effective sales question that can also be applied to help an individual or team make a decision. You’ll get a feel for which way they are leaning while recognizing they may not have everything they need to make the decision.
- Is there other information you need to make your decision?
This typically follows a proposal or presentation that outlines the opportunity. This is a key question in sales, but it is also very effective with teams when decisions need to be made.
- How can we make that happen?
Even when the idea seems complex, I like asking this question to challenge us to consider the how, including what and who needs to be involved.
- Who besides yourself will be involved with this decision?
This helps identify the decision maker and key influencers. It also helps to determine a go-forward strategy for managing the process and defining next steps.
- Why do we do it that way?
This is one of my favorite questions to ask because it gives me a better understanding of what’s working and what the gaps are. It often is the start of a longer dialogue that leads to continuous improvement.
- Why wouldn’t we do that?
How this one is asked can impact the answer. It can be asked in a way that suggests you want to move forward and encourages the team to consider how it could work. It also can be asked in a way that allows people to put their objections on the table. Both enable leaders to move forward.
- How’s it going?
I will often ask multiple people working on the same project to provide an informal progress report. If there’s a delta in the responses, we probably have some work to do to keep things moving forward.
MY ULTIMATE QUESTION
My ultimate favorite question (which is actually a statement) is: Tell me your story. I always pay close attention to what comes next. Beyond the typical education and business background, I usually learn a little more information about them personally. I enjoy hearing about their family, where they grew up and their interests. This is an opportunity to ask many follow-up questions and makes for a rich and engaging conversation.
Questions can be a powerful tool to uncover key information we need to understand people, influencers, strategy and impact. The questions above are part of my daily leadership style. Try a few — you might like the answers.