As a leader, do you feel like you need to have the answers? Most leaders feel an enormous pressure to have answers to most, if not all, of the 1000s of questions they receive in a day. I know I do, but I also know that I don’t have all the right answers. Questions are powerful. They allow me to remain strong as a leader and draw out the most amazing leadership from others.
Look deeper around you.
If you use a question with one of your leaders, it positions them (and you) for success. It communicates several key principles to your leader:
- It says, “I trust you.” You are trusting them to tell you something valuable and helpful. You are trusting them to engage with you at the level of decision-making.
- It says, “I value you.” You are indirectly communicating the value of their contribution. You are reminding them why they are on the team.
- You are engaging them personally. Employee engagement has received a great deal of attention. There are studies, hours of training, surveys, and products to address engagement, but your question is the highest form of engagement. A simple, well-timed question can reach the heart and mind of those you lead.
“A simple, well-timed question can reach the heart and mind of those you lead.”
Ask So You Can Listen.
You can’t fake this. Your team knows when you ask questions to show them how much you know. Rather, ask questions that are truly inquisitive. Ask about something that you really want to know. When you ask a question, you must listen to the answer. The power of a question can be lost if you do not listen to and engage with the answer. Take this question for example:
“What would we do if we knew we wouldn’t fail?”
When you ask this question, your reaction to the answer will determine the power of the question. There could be any number of responses from your team member. They could look at you in silence, provide a poor answer, or respond with an engaging answer. In any case, you are learning more about your team member. You may learn that they appear afraid to answer you. With that information, you can begin to find out how to help them overcome their fears. You want their answers because you need your people. As a leader, you can use questions to lead.
Look deeper within yourself.
Another powerful application of questions is to use them on yourself. Questions are like the lenses that focus light into a laser beam. They push you to inspection and introspection. One mentor of mine encouraged me to search for three answers to every question. He theorized that we can often find two reasonable answers, but when we have to push for a third answer, it is more challenging. I have found that the third answer helps me clarify the “why” behind the first two. I may not choose answer number three, but I will have more confidence in the one that I choose.
So, let me encourage you to use questions in leadership. Asking a question doesn’t mean that you don’t know the answer. When used well, your team will appreciate joining you in the discussion and you will find that there are greater answers than you could have found on your own. More importantly, you will find that the people around you will grow as leaders and multiply influence for the team.
Dr. Jay Raines has a love for people development and creativity. These passions inspired him to launch LeadersQ in 2017 at the encouragement of other business leaders. Previously, Jay co-founded a leadership development company in Bangalore, India and led that organization. Jay approaches professional coaching with his clients from a holistic perspective to help them reflect on productivity, relationships and achieving desired results.
“This training helped me to learn the value of other personality types and will hopefully help me to help others grow in their area. I feel like I know my team members’ strengths now and can try to help them allow those strengths to work together. I feel that I have learned skills that will be important in my leadership growth.” – Bentonville, AR
“You know that moment when you’ve got a great group of talented and skilled employees that could be the Dream Team, but they can’t seem to get things done? That is the moment when you need