to the Truth by Asking Good Questions
manager, the most powerful tool you can have in your toolbox is the
ability to ask good questions. Through
asking questions, you can 1) create an environment where people trust
you and their ability to solve problems for themselves, and 2)
surgically remove the excuses, lies, and other irresponsible comments
that erode morale and productivity.
know how and when to ask good questions, you can reassure the timid,
disarm the dissident, and create an environment where productive
conversations and win/win solutions evolve.
will this skill help you restore calm within the ranks, it will help
you attract talented people and enhance your leadership skills beyond
When You Think You Know the Answers, why Ask Questions?
covers up a problem, blames others, or refuses to take responsibility,
do you know how to resolve the situation and get back to business?
Even if you know what should be done, do you know how to make
it happen when passive aggressive or assertive personalities are
involved? Do you know how
to move things forward without bringing fight or flight responses into
of asking good questions is that they:
Demand an Answer
Keep you in Control
Focus the Conversation
Figuring out the Right Questions to Ask
good questions is not about conducting an interrogation.
And it’s not about having a therapy session.
It’s more like a conversation where you are intently
interested in hearing what the other person has to say.
If you aren’t sure where to begin, start by asking a question
you think you know the answer to.
If there is a difference between what you thought and what you
are told, you’ll have a better idea of the scope and importance of
refining your questions until you have the big picture and any
personal issues that may have a bearing on the resolution.
The key is to remain objective so that you can get to the root
of the problem as you fashion your questions--without being deflected
by passive aggressive smokescreens or outright hostility.
Staying Cool, Calm, and in Control
following tactics in mind to help you maintain focus and keep the
conversation on track.
the win/win. Don’t
use questions to hammer someone into a corner.
You want to make the other person as comfortable as you can to
make sure that you are heard and that he understands the purpose of
your questions. Ask
questions that help him understand his options, other points of view,
and what he could do differently.
Your choice is to stay as neutral as possible.
the rate. Don’t
questions. Use a
conversational approach to diffuse a hostile situation, ease emotion,
and establish connection. Remember
that questions provoke both thought and emotion, and the higher the
emotion the lower the listening. Pace
your questions so people can think clearly and give honest responses.
for clues. While you
may not be able to tell if someone is lying, hiding a truth, or just
insecure, you will know when you’ve triggered an emotion if the
person you are questioning:
Widens or narrows his eyes or looks away
Talks softer or louder
Breathes faster or slower
Folds his arms tightly or gestures openly
Turns his body away or toward you
for Consistency. When
someone comes to you with a complaint, they are telling you less than
50% of the story. Ask the
other person his side of the story.
If needed, go back to the first person and say, “You didn’t
tell me everything you could have told me.”
You are the in-between person so stick to the facts.
How you gather and use that information with the person making
the complaint makes a big impact on the outcome.
respond to multiple complaints. Ask,
“What is the one concern that is most important to you that I
can help resolve?” Forcing
the choice gives you the information and direction you need to
formulate your next question.
focused. Some people
will give you more information than you want or talk about things
unrelated to the issue at hand. Take
control by saying, “I understand, however that is off topic.
Let’s complete the issue at hand.”
Or you could say, “I’m asking you this question and I need
a precise answer.” If it
continues ask, “Can we agree to focus on this question, and if you
get off base again, I have permission to stop you?”
agree there is no solution.
Turn this attitude around by stating, “It doesn’t work
that way.” Then ask
questions that clarify the essential issue. When clarified, ask,
“Once this is resolved, what will things look like?”
people to agree to a resolution is one thing.
Here’s what you can do to make sure the desired changes
for understanding. Promises
are useless unless everyone involved clearly understands what has been
agreed to. You can ask
them to restate it, put it in writing, or explain what needs to be
done. The point is to make
sure everyone understands the resolution, what is expected, and the
consequences of violating the agreement.
what you expect. Put
guidelines in place that reinforce the agreement and set a deadline if
needed. Check in with
those involved before the deadline and offer praise when it is due.
Continue to ask questions and give advice if things still need
to be done differently. If
you’ve set a policy, take appropriate action to make it stick.
If you don’t, you will lose credibility up and down the chain
trustworthy. How you
ask questions, conduct conversations, and use information demonstrates
your integrity. If you
violate a confidence or punish people for making mistakes, they will
only tell you what you want to hear.
The best way to build your trustworthiness is to treat people
with respect and thank them for being honest.
When mistakes are made, a true leader takes responsibility for
the actions of his employees.
Cutting the Wheat from the Chaff
good questions, uncovering the truth, and consistently going down the
right path will make you a better manager.
It also will attract to you people who want to work in an open
culture, have the courage to deal with honest conflicts over real
issues, and are not prone to petty grievances.
find yourself doubting your ability to ask good questions, just ask
yourself one question: “When two people are arguing, who is really
in control-- the person who is upset or the person asking the
right. If you are the one
asking the questions, you are the one gathering the information you
need to work things out.
business strategist Peter Drucker is known for saying, “My greatest
strength as a consultant is to be ignorant and ask a few questions.”
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