Catchy title, right? Well, I didn’t come up with it, my friend and mentor John Maxwell did. Here’s what John has to say about questions and leaders: “Leaders must ask questions to develop and grow. This holds true during your first leadership assignments as well as throughout your career. The more questions leaders ask the more answers they receive. The more answers they receive, the better equipped they become to lead. Never worry about appearing foolish or ignorant when you ask a question. You may be surprised when everyone around you develops more respect for you, not less, because you did the one thing that most leaders are terrified to do: You admitted that you don’t know everything. Though many of us try to make ourselves look smart by giving clever answers, we would be much better off if we focused our attention on asking questions.”
Did you ever notice that people don’t like to ask questions? It’s understandable when those questions are personal. You don’t want to offend anyone. But, most people willingly give answers to questions asked of them. So why are you so afraid to ask?
When you ask questions, you have the tools you need to be a better listener. It’s indirect and subtle, but it works. When you ask questions, you listen for the answer. You aren’t spending your energy trying to think of what to say after the other person is finished speaking.
Before you fire up your question engine, be sure to keep a few tips in mind. The first is to be relevant. If you are all over the place on your topics, the other person is going to suggest you switch to decaf, because you are too wound up. Keep your questions relevant to the topic of discussion. You can transition into other topics, but try to keep them related.
Another tip is, don’t try to ask questions for the purpose of tricking someone into an answer or trying to show how smart you are compared to him or her. The idea is to connect with people by listening to their stories. In fact, a better approach is to ask questions that you know they will be able to answer. Sometimes, you may already know the answer. But it’s the process you are after as well as the answers.
It’s okay to ask questions that relate to you somehow, but try to keep the focus on the other person. People love to talk about themselves, and when they find people who are good listeners, they will open up to you.
Good questions can also steer the conversation. This can be an asset when you converse with someone who is overly chatty. If they are going on and on about a topic, use questions to reel them in. It’s a focused approach that gives you control while moving the conversation forward.
If you aren’t one who typically uses questions, it can take a bit of practice to learn what to ask. I would highly suggest reading John’s book, Good Leaders Ask Great Questions.