“Judge a person by their questions, rather than their answers”- Voltaire

In leadership, asking the right questions is a powerful tool. Great leaders recognize that, as individuals, they will never have the answers to every issue or challenge. These same leaders know that they can get the information they need for finding solutions from their employees and colleagues through asking questions. However, these aren’t just any questions… they are carefully crafted and framed to inspire and empower people to consider innovative and alternate ways of thinking, thus increasing the likelihood that the respondent will be open and honest, as well as being engaged and constructive with their answer.

So what are the components of a great question? In my experience as a leadership development consultant and coach, there are five key attributes that go into constructing a question that yields new and insightful information.

  • Audience: Consider your audience. What do you know of them and how they work? What is their relationship to you? Will they understand the context and intent of the question?
  • Focus: Keep the question focused on one specific topic. This sets the direction of the conversation and serves to elicit the required information.
  • Brevity and Clarity: The question should be short in order to support the comprehension of the respondent. Frame the question in the simplest of terms possible to ensure the person has every opportunity to concentrate their efforts on their response, as opposed to trying to understand what you are really asking.
  • Scope: Remember that the scope of the question should match the needs of the conversation. You are asking people to discover their own answers regarding the issue or challenge so ensure the question reflects the context.
  • Bias: Finally, be aware of your own bias when asking questions of others. The intent is to create the space for the respondent to offer new ideas, thus the question needs to free of your own thoughts, assumptions, or agendas.

Successful leaders develop new perspectives and novel solutions to issues and challenges through seeking fresh and different ideas from those around them. They understand that the best way to get these great answers is to ask great questions.

Please share your thoughts in the comment section below, as I welcome the opportunity to learn from you.