October 17, 2017

The Questioning Leader

by Russ Sarratt

One of the best things I can do as a leader is to ask questions.

Leadership and management pioneer Peter Drucker said, “My greatest strength as a consultant is to be ignorant and ask a few questions.” Following this thought process has made me notorious; team members often come to me regarding a challenge they face, only to leave with more questions than before the meeting began.

My hope is that my team members would walk away not just asking more questions, but asking the right questions. Right questions lead to the right answers. One of the best things I can do as a leader is to ask good questions that will give new perspective.

Do you ask enough questions? Do you ask the right questions? Do you find yourself doing most of the talking when a team member comes to you for help? A great question can be one of a leader’s best tools in almost any situation.

 

Here are seven questions that have proven useful for me as a leader:

01
How are you doing?

Do you check in on your people from time to time? Do you initiate conversations that center solely on your people and what is going on in their lives? If you show genuine care and concern for the folks on your team, you will find these conversations will open new doors of communication in all areas.

 

02
What does success look like in this situation?
This question can bring clarity in most problem areas. It is a sure way to make certain you are in alignment on what equals a “win” for your team, and most importantly, for individual team members. Pinpointing the definition of success will help ascertain what you expect of your team and what they expect from you.  Make sure to push toward a measurable answer.

 

03
What do you think?

Show your team that you value their input and ideas. Once you ask the question, you must be committed to following up and helping them to implement some of their ideas.

 

04
What would you do?

Often team members know what to do, but they lack the confidence or freedom to execute their idea. Put them in your shoes and give them the chance to make a decision. Make sure you support them and give them the resources to be successful.

 

05
What is holding us back?

As leaders we tend to be convinced that our ideas will lead to success; we often fail to recognize real obstacles that might trip us up along the way. Team members who are closer to the situation may see more clearly. Ask them for their insight into what obstacles may be in the way of achieving success.

 

06
What are we missing?
Team members have a different perspective than the leader. Leverage that unique and “close to the action” perspective to help you gain a more realistic view.

 

07
What is the root cause of this situation?

One of the best things a leader can offer to team members is to help them find clarity regarding the real source of a problem. This is a question you have to ask multiple times to actually get to the root cause; asking once is never enough.

The questions we ask can have a profound impact on the actions we take.

 

The seven examples provided here can go a long way toward equipping you to ask better questions. As you work to ask better questions with those you lead, remember to ask questions with yourself as well.

01
Are you willing to take the time to listen?

02
Do you really care about your team’s answers?

Once you ask questions, take action! If you do not care enough to stop, listen, and make necessary adjustments based on your team’s insight, then asking the right questions won’t matter. French philosopher Voltaire observed that it is wise to “judge a man by his questions instead of his answers.”

 

How well are you questioning?

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