Leadership Retreats Resources

Answers Add Value

January 8, 2018
Lead Organizations
Russ Sarratt

A few months ago, I shared some insight on how to be a leader who asks better questions. I shared several questions that can serve as tools to give your team new perspective.


As a leader, asking better questions will enable you to lead your team more effectively; but what about when you are asked the questions? If you are like me, most of your day is consumed with answering questions for other people. They come in person, through texts, emails, and calls. How you answer the questions your team brings you is a critical aspect of leading them well; your approach to answering questions is just as important as the answer itself. How is that possible?


Let me share a few insights that can add positive impact to the way you answer questions.


1. Never let the first answer be “no.”

Unless the question refers to something illegal or immoral, your first response should never be “no”. After digging further or getting more information, you may still end up with a “no” answer; however if you frequently respond with an immediate “no,” you will discourage your team from seeking your insight or assistance. This does not mean you have to say “yes” to everything, just keep an open mind until you know all the facts.


2. Assume the best.

Always assume your team has the best intentions when they bring a question to you. Rather than immediately assuming ulterior motives, listen before you judge. Dig deeper, if you must; but attributing an alternate motivation before knowing the facts will damage the trust between you and the team member.  Give your team members the benefit of the doubt and let each question stand on its own.


3. Always ask yourself, “How can I add value here?”

You have the ability to add extreme value to someone who asks you a question; that’s why they came to you in the first place! Examine your attitude and responses. Do you view each question as an opportunity to help a team member grow? Fully engage in each exchange and make your answers meaningful. Always be mindful of ways you can add value.


4. Answer with another question.

Sometimes the best response to an inquiry from your team is to ask another question. A well-formed question can lead your team member to discover the answer on their own. Ask questions that will enable your team member to realize if they have missed an important aspect of the problem. Help them realize if they “can’t see the forest for the trees.”  Another question may be just the response needed to help a team member grow in ability and confidence.


5. Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know.”

You don’t have all the answers; no one does. It is important, however, that you don’t end the exchange after the “I don’t know.” Commit to your team member that you will think it through and do the necessary research to supply a good answer. You will only gain greater respect by proving your commitment to your team and taking your team member’s concern seriously.

Does your team view you as a valuable resource to help them succeed?

The more value you add to your team, the more questions you will get. The more questions you get, the more opportunity you have to add value. It can be difficult when you feel bombarded with questions all day; however, having the right perspective on this cycle of questions and adding value will enable you and your team to make the most out of each interaction. Answer well!