The Art of Asking

Would you like a simple tool to help you be a more successful leader, a more effective manager, and a more valuable employee (PLUS a more supportive friend, a more confident parent and a better spouse)?  
It’s a tool you already use every day, it doesn’t cost anything and you have an unlimited supply right on the tip of your tongue.

It’s called a Question.Keep reading to find out how asking more and better questions can improve your results and your relationships in business and in life.

If you like what you read I invite you to download a FREE copy of my eBook: Leader Language™: How To Choose Your Words To Get The Results You Want (without sounding pushy, passive or pompous) by clicking here.

Questions are often a more powerful form of communication than statements for several reasons.

  • First, for someone to respond to a question their brain must engage.
  • Second, we are more likely to believe what we hear ourselves say than what we hear someone else say.
  • Third, when you ask questions it gives you information and helps you understand the situation more fully rather than immediately making assumptions and jumping to conclusions.
  • Finally, asking questions opens up possibilities.

When I do coaching I emphasize the importance of asking questions and I try to model the behavior. Recently I was working with a young man who was having difficulty with the concept of asking questions during a sales call. Finally, after about an hour or so, I saw his face brighten and with a flash of understanding he said, “You have been modeling what you want me to do – you are moving me through your agenda by asking me questions.” If I had been telling instead of asking he would not have experienced that flash of insight.

Asking questions – especially asking questions to effectively elicit information – is a skill far too many people in all walks of life lack. If you want to be a more successful leader, a more effective manager, and a more valuable employee, (PLUS a more supportive friend, a more confident parent and a better spouse) ask more and listen longer.

Here are 3 tips to help you improve the quality and quantity of your questions.

  1. Set the context. If you simply jump into asking questions without giving the person you are asking the questions of some insight into the reason for your questions it can put them on the defensive. A friend and I were doing a sales call a couple of years ago. After the call we were debriefing. I said I felt like the prospect felt a little interrogated by all the questions. My friend and I looked at each other and at the same time said, “We didn’t state the purpose before we started asking questions.” By asking a simple question like, “So that I can be sure and tailor the information I provide to your needs may I ask you a few questions?” would have provided her the reason or context for the questions and we would have gained her permission to ask the questions.
  2. Catch yourself when you start to tell. Start paying attention to how often you are telling versus asking. Notice when you start to tell someone something and challenge yourself to turn that statement into a question. For example, next time you start to tell one of your employees specifically what you want them to do to solve a problem stop yourself. Instead ask them what they think they need to do to successfully resolve the issue. You will probably be pleasantly surprised when they come up with an even better idea than you had. This works with teenagers as well.
  3. Try “Q-Storming”. Q-Storming is a technique I learned from the book Change Your Questions Change Your Life by Marilee Adams. It’s like brainstorming only you are looking for new questions – not answers or solutions. Here’s an overview of the process as described in the book. Start by describing the problematic situation and your desired outcome. Then identify the assumptions you have about the situation. Brainstorm questions in the first person (I or we). For example, “How can we improve accuracy?” or “What can I do to be more creative?” Once you have brainstormed the questions pay special attention to any that you have not asked before. For more information I highly recommend the book.

If you would like to learn more about how your language may be helping or hindering you on your path to realizing your goals – especially those big goals then I invite you to download a FREE copy of my eBook: Leader Language™: How To Choose Your Words To Get The Results You Want (without sounding pushy, passive or pompous). It is chock-full of tips and exercises that you can use to engage, energize and mobilize yourself and others to improve your results. Download it now.


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POSTED ON: Strategy and Vision