The Art of Asking Questions


The single best indication of someone’s abilities, from CEO on down to the front line employee, is the quality of the questions that he or she asks.

The more experience I gain in life, the more I’m convinced that the above statement is true. Not only does the quality of questions a person asks reflect that person’s curiosity – a character trait that is immensely important in the business environment – but also, it reflects the person’s ability to think effectively, and influence both decision-making and action.

All too often, leaders are measured by the frequency with which they speak and their loudness in the room. This gets misinterpreted as having a “presence.” They’re interpreted as the smartest, fastest person in the room, and the company becomes reliant on his visionary and decision-making capabilities. And, it leads to a command and control culture that actually handicaps the speed with which the organization can move and innovate.

By contrast, leaders that listen first and ask poignant questions can quickly lead a team to a breakthrough insight and enroll the team into action around that insight. Indeed, while people might follow an order, they still want to, and will, come to their own conclusions. If this conclusion is out of alignment with the leader’s order, the leader will quickly find his directives silently questioned, challenged and usurped in the daily actions of the organization. Brilliant questions, on the other hand, are designed to lead a team to the same conclusion, and, ultimately, to aligned action around that conclusion.

Questions reflect a person’s ability to expand the context in which an organization operates and the possibilities that an organization creates. Questions reflect a leader’s ability to coach and guide her her team. Questions reflect what is important to a person. Questions say a lot about a person. So, chose your questions wisely.

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