Asking The Right Questions As A Leader

Effective questions are questions that are powerful and thought provoking.  When working with people to solve a problem or generate ideas, it is not enough to tell them what to do. They need to be involved and understand for themselves. Great leaders help them do this by asking them the right questions, that generate ideas and lead to a solution or action.

What’s Important to Remember:

  • Create comfortable environment to have safe conversations and discussions.
  • Do not ask more than one question at a time.
  • Avoid asking “leading questions.”
  • Know the aim of the conversation.
  • Wait for the answer and not provide the answer.

Questions for Brainstorming

Brainstorming is a great place to contribute ideas and commit to actions for advancing the business. As the facilitator of a brainstorming session, you should be guiding the conversation in useful directions.  Good facilitation requires good listening skills, very sharp group awareness, and the ability to help people express their ideas. Stronger personalities may naturally dominate the discussion, but it’s your responsibility to prevent people from interrupting each other and to give the floor to quieter people who wouldn’t ordinarily contribute on their own.

brainstorming women

Leading the Group to Great Ideas:

  • Eliminate limits: “What if money were no option?” or “What if our time table were three times as long?”
  • Challenge assumptions:  “Why do we think they won’t pay more for it?”
  • Act it out: “What would this scenario look like?”
  • Copycat: “Think of a successful business in a different industry.   Think about what they do well and how we can learn from their idea and incorporate it in our business.”
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Questions for Resolving Conflict

Conflict and disagreements are inevitable when working with others. However, when the right approach is taken, conflict can turn into a great opportunity to exemplify problem-solving skills when you find common ground and move the team forward.

Identify and Solve:

  • Identify the issues. “What seems to be your main obstacle?” or “When did you identify this problem?” or “What were the actions leading up to this issue?”
  • Agree to the Problem Using “I” statements.  Try conveying only how you feel and what you observe: “I feel that this problem is affecting the work environment,” or “I’m hearing that this issue is causing you stress outside the office. Is that accurate?” Identify the true problem and be sure everyone agrees on what the problem is before moving forward.
  •  Brainstorm Possible Solutions. Gathering the involved parties together for a brainstorming session not only helps to resolve the problem quickly, but it makes everyone feel like they are part of the solution. “What can you agree on in this situation?” or “How can you help improve this situation?”
  • Negotiate a Solution. “What do you think about doing X this way?” or “What are your next steps?”

Questions to Earn Buy-In

Making each member in your company or department feel apart of the team is important.  When employees feel they belong, they take ownership of their work, take pride in what they produce, and understand the value their contributions have to the team. When you have an employee that is not accountable or involved, it’s time to have a conversation to reignite the passion and reconnect them to the company.

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two women at table

Inviting Team Member to Own Their Role

  • Know What They Value: “What is some work you feel most proud of?” or “When do you feel the most in-tuned with the team?”
  • Know Their Opinion: “What do you think about the ideas presented in the last meeting?” or “Do you agree or do you see the issue differently? Explain.”
  • Invite them to help: “Can you think of another way to solve that problem?” or “What will you do? When will you do it?”

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