As leaders, we need to be in tune with our team in order to solve problems. That means we have to listen. In order to ensure you are listening to the right thing, you need to ask the right questions. Here are three ways to make that happen.
1. Prepare multiple questions. It goes without saying that you want to ask open questions. However, you want to provoke real thought. Surface questions won’t cut it when looking to solve complicated problems or when trying to learn about someone’s actions. Developing a list of questions will enable you to practice and choose ones that fit, rather than asking the first question that pops into your head.
2. Remember that the first answer, is most likely only part of the answer. At times, simply asking “why” to the initial answer, will get you to the next level. If you are looking to solve a problem, it is imperative to understand that people and situations are complex. There are often several variables that all work together to create a problem. Cause mapping is an excellent tool used to get to the root of the problem by asking cause and effect “why” questions.
3. Don’t predict the answer. I’ve noticed that we sometimes predict what the answer will be, even before asking the question. This becomes problematic because we stop looking for the “why” when we hear the answer we projected onto the situation. This is short-sighted at best and will lead to a surface understanding of individuals and issues. It also reduces the effectiveness of the solution.
It takes time, practice and patience in order to ask the right questions. If you plan on being a leader, learning this skill early will help you navigate tough problems much easier. What other steps can we take, in order to make sure our questions fit the situation?