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Why the best leaders ask questions

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John Sherman
2018-10-10

Most people see a leader as someone who gives direction and guidance, not a person who asks a lot of questions. However, as you are about to learn, the best leaders do ask questions — and for good reason. Whether you want to move into management or are already part of the leadership team within your organization, this information will create positive change.

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Activity within the brain

There are stark differences between today’s work environment and even 10 years ago. With the advancement of technology, greater customer demand, more complex products and services, compliance issues, and a significant amount of disruption, leaders can no longer rely on their experiences alone. Great leaders have to ask questions to get the right answers and, therefore, identify better solutions.

Successful companies recognize the need to develop curious leaders. Leading a discussion with a question opens a dialog, which encourages debate and engagement. Questions also drive employees to want to learn more. In response to a question, a team will work more cohesively to produce an appropriate answer. That requires them to research, investigate, and delve into things they may have never considered or perhaps overlooked.

Especially now that we live in a digital era, it is critical to ask questions that build connections and promote innovation. The best leaders know the value of creative thinking. To encourage that among their teams, they need to use questions as a way of not just stimulating the mind but also changing it.

According to Medium, questions trigger the brain to respond in specific ways. “Questions hijack our thoughts and our unconscious mind goes to work. Before we know it, someone’s question has conjured new thoughts and ideas. We might imagine something related to the question itself or we might imagine possible solutions.”

Impactful questions

  1. Pause – After posing a question, there should be a moment of pause. That helps quiet your mind, so you can objectively listen to the answers your staff gives. A pause also gives your team time to formulate a creative response. As a result, you can expect a more impactful conversation.
  2. Quality – Work on the questions you ask, ensuring they will prompt your staff to find innovative and inclusive solutions.
  3. Listen – If you ask the right questions, you will receive multiple points of view. A great leader is not only an excellent speaker but also a listener. Keep in mind that you do not always have to agree with every answer received, but you should be receptive to hearing what your team has to say. That way, you learn from your employees, which makes you an even better leader.

Prepare for change

Overall, your team will change for the better. As mentioned, your employees will start to work as a cohesive unit, striving to resolve problems and develop innovation. Something else to consider is the change you will see in your customers. Because you ask questions that draw on your team’s creativity and inclusive thinking, they produce unique ways to improve operations. In response to that, you will start to see measurable results in sales and customer satisfaction.

Garnering respect

The great leaders of today have one particular thing in common: Their teams highly respect them and their position of authority. Leading with questions and giving your staff time to respond does several things. First, as mentioned, it allows them time to think, so they respond with better answers. Second, your employees will develop more respect for you as their leader.

Interacting and collaborating with your staff shows that you value their input. That alone makes a significant difference in the loyalty they have for you and the company as a whole. The fact is that people want to feel both valued and challenged. Asking questions and giving your employees time to answer will accomplish both. It will also enhance engagement and promote accountability.

Examples of questions to ask

The questions you present to your team will depend on the situation, as well as the person or persons you address. As one example, if you ask a question like “What can I do to help you perform better,” your staff recognizes that instead of trying to figure something out themselves, they have your support and guidance for coming up with a viable solution. This question also shows them that you want their opinions and suggestions.

Take advantage of online training

To learn more about using questions to become a great leader, check out some of the incredible online training courses offered by Go1. You can also develop a training program that will encourage creative thinking among your team members.

Go1 helps millions of people in thousands of organizations engage in learning that is relevant, effective and inspiring.
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