Do you want to move an important project ahead faster? Would you rather motivate and engage than give orders and ride herd? How about inspiring greater accountability? Why do I ask so many questions? Because questions deliver better results.
As you read the questions above, I have no doubt that you at least began to consider answers. When someone asks questions—especially when you as a manager ask questions of a direct report—the listener can’t help but begin to formulate a response.
You’ve heard the claim that if I say, “Don’t think about a purple elephant,” you can’t help but picture one. Let me push that a step further. If I ask, “What are you going to do about that purple elephant in your office?” you may think I’ve lost contact with reality, but you can’t ignore my question. You are engaged!
Brains can’t help but respond to questions. For that reason, your questions will engage your team much more than your statements, orders, or opinions. I like to think of questions as a magic tool. They not only elicit new and often unexpected responses, but the responder becomes intimately engaged, because he or she owns the response. That ownership drives greater accountability.
Besides, when you ask questions, you save yourself the trouble of working out all the tactical details. “Do this,” leaves so much room for misinterpretation and often draws questions like, “How do you want me to do it?” But a question like, “How will you do this?” invites engagement, draws out solutions the responder owns and, therefore, is more motivated to deliver.
Start asking more questions and watch your results improve. The more questions you ask, the better you will become at asking the kinds of questions that generate the kinds of answers that will help your team and organization grow.
Here are ten suggestions, but they’re just suggestions. Craft your own questions to address your specific goals.
1. How do you plan to handle this project?
2. What else do you need from me?
3. Whom can I ask to support you?
4. When can we get together to discuss your progress?
5. What can we do to make this project run more smoothly?
6. What additional information can I provide?
7. Why have you chosen this approach?
8. What are you doing to ensure quality completion?
9. How well is your team supporting you?
10. When do you think you can deliver?
The truly great leaders I work with are highly skilled at asking questions. I call them truly great leaders, because they motivate engagement and drive greater accountability from their teams. If you want to rise to that kind of leadership greatness, start asking power questions.
How do you plan to begin asking power questions? When do you think you will get started? Do you need any more help from me?
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