How To Ask Better Questions To Get Better Answers And Be More Productive
As a leader, you're always juggling completing priorities, whether it's deadlines, staff development of continually putting out fires. With so many things vying for your time, you need to select which matters truly need your attention and which can be delegated to your teas. One skill you can master is how to ask better questions so you always get better answers. Two types of questions You probably already know this, but let’s just recall the two types of questions: ● Open-ended questions – allow a person to elaborate and add flavour to an answer. Examples: “How was your day?”, “What would you like for dinner?”, “How do we solve this problem?” ● Close-ended questions – can be answered by a “yes” or a “no.” Examples: Do you need help? As leaders, we know that both types of questions are important. What’s more important, though, is learning to use the correct type of question based on the situation at hand. If you use the wrong type of question, then you might not get anywhere at all. In contrast, if you do use the correct type then you’ll be a step closer to getting the answer you need.
Focus on solutions, not problems One of the most valuable lessons i've learnt came from my early leadership days. I worked under a leader in an organisation I’d been in for a while. Early on in his tenure, I went to him with a problem and he said, “Don’t come to me with your problem, come to me with your solutions.” I was taken aback, i couldn't believe he could be so heartless not to help when i was clearly lost on how to help one of the customers. I went back the next day and asked for help. He sent me off again "don't come to me with your problems, come to me with your solutions." That happened a few times before I got the message. I was asking the wrong questions so I was getting an answer that was getting me nowhere. It may seem like a minor thing, but that leader’s strategy had a huge impact on me. Now I always think of solutions rather than dwell on problems. And I’ve learned to look for the right questions to get to those solutions. Some helpful questions as a leader might be What do you need from me to make this easier for you right now? What roadblock can i help with the preventing you from what you need to do? What question do you need me to ask you to help you get to the answer?
Accessibility vs. productivity That story from long ago also touches on one of the constant juggling acts that leaders have to perform: accessibility vs. productivity. As leaders, we want to be accessible to our teams and practice an open door policy. However, let’s accept it, some people use this as a revolving door policy. They’ll constantly knock on your door asking (sometimes) unimportant questions, giving unsolicited comments, or just wanting you to do their work for them. If you have a constant stream of people interrupting you, you will find yourself ending the day without having done even a quarter of your own work. To balance accessibility with the equally important need for productivity, focus on learning to ask the right questions, teaching your people how to problem solve is a great first step.
My question to you this week Ali... What can I do to make this week easier for you? Eat The Frog, Get the Worm, Be the Bird, and ask better questions!