“Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.”
One of the biggest mistakes we can make as managers is to talk too much and ask too few enough questions.
Are you a manager who suffers from “I” strain? – I did this, I do this, I, I, I, …
Furthermore, if we do ask questions do we listen to the answer?
Asking questions is one of the most effective ways of gaining information and eliciting team co-operation. It is therefore one of the best tools available to managers.
The skill in asking questions is to know what type of question to ask, when to ask it and how to ask it.
There are 2 main types of Questions:
- Closed Questions – these are those questions that require a yes no, or one word answer. They should be avoided unless you are clarifying a position or answer
- Open Questions – these are questions that elicit an open response where if handled carefully you can obtain valuable information and opinions and have your staff committed to the organisation.
A useful technique in asking questions is to start the question with one of the following………Why, Where, When, Who, What, and How
You can continue a conversation and explore ideas by rolling through the five Ws and H:
‘where’ did it happen?
‘when’ did it happen?
‘who’ was involved?
‘why’ did it happen?
‘how’ did it happen?
Other types of questions include
Direct Questions (can be used to slow down a fast talker, confront an obstructionist or draw out a reluctant participant),
Leading Questions (should be generally avoided but can be used to gain support or bring a meeting to a close),
Ambiguous Questions (when more than one answer is possible. Can also be used to provoke a response, slow down a domineering talker, start a discussion or spark some action),
Provocative Questions (should be used with care and often used to provoke a response or defend a position),
Rhetorical Questions (very effective in putting an issue ‘to bed’ and moving on)
Re-directed Questions (used by politicians to avoid answering the question).
Questions are good tools to have when conducting a meeting.
More importantly we should avoid asking questions that are:
- Closed questions (yes/no) unless you follow up with a direct or factual question
- Invoke antagonisms
- Of a personal nature which may embarrass
So now the question I ask is “how active is your listening?”
Are you getting the feedback desired and does the person you are questioning feel that you are interested and actively listening to their answers?