Asking the right questions is an essential skill of any leader. Yet many fail to inquire enough. Here are three types of questions you should be asking:
- Questions about yourself. Good leaders ask themselves and others about what they could do better. Ask in a way that invites constructive, candid responses and allows those to respond to feel safe about responding.
- Questions about plans and projects. These should both advance the work and develop the people. Tough and direct questions are OK, as long as they are in the interest of progress. Better yet, ask questions that inquire and stimulate thinking. For example, 'What was it about this approach that seemed the best approach?' ......or......'What might be some ways we could measure our results?' When you ask a 'What might....' or 'How might...' question, you are opening up thinking. Try it and see what happens.
- Questions about the organization. Look for ways that the organization can function more effectively by questioning practices, processes, and structures. Ask: Why do we do things this way? Is there a better approach? You need to ask yourself these questions first. In the right setting, these are great questions to ask your staff....but ask them when people can respond as groups...until the culture exists where staff understand that you really want to know what works best and you're not testing them.
Adapted from "The Art of Asking Questions" by Ron Ashkenas.