Great Leaders Ask the Right Questions

by Rhett Power , Co-founder, Wild Creations

Let’s face it–we don’t have all the answers as leaders. One of the things I have learned over the years is that asking questions is OK. In fact, asking your team for help in solving a problem or getting the answer to a challenging question is a great way to make them feel needed and valuable. I believe successful leaders understand that asking questions–and listening with intention–is the best way to manage and lead.

If you’re not asking questions every day, you’re missing the opportunity to:

  • find better ways to improve processes, create new business, and recruit loyal   customers;
  • discover possible flaws or challenges in your company; and
  • engage employees in strategic planning and creative thinking.

Asking questions is easy. Here are 10 examples to get you started.

  1. What do we do well?
  2. What’s missing?
  3. What should we stop doing?
  4. Are we relevant? How can we be sure to remain that way?
  5. What award do we want to earn?
  6. Do I/we have the right team?
  7. How do we recover from setbacks?
  8. Are we measuring the right performance indicators?
  9. What do our customers say about us?
  10. What is it like to work here?

What’s not so easy?

What’s not so easy is being vulnerable enough to listen to the answers to these questions. This is what separates leaders from the rest. A true leader knows that honest answers can motivate staff (and self!) as well as avoid potential pitfalls. The road to success is paved with the information gained from just asking the right questions. And listening. And then implementing.

Words from the wise

I recently read an article by Mike Maddock, who gives this advice on asking questions: “The way you ask questions is critically important. By starting questions with ‘How to’ or ‘I wish’ and finishing them with the challenge that you can’t figure out, e.g., ‘I wish I knew how to get this idea through our legal hurdles,’ you are modeling great leadership. Why? Because great leaders humbly share their biggest challenges with their teams and ask them to help solve them.”

Entrepreneur Rick Smith, founder of World 50, the world’s premier senior executive networking organization, considers the ability to ask questions essential. He feels it will be key to successful leaders in the next five years. Smith writes, “Today’s leaders are addicted to answers. … Of much greater value will be the ability to ask the right questions. In a chaotic situation, winning requires focus, and knowing where to focus will be determined by the questions you are asking. In the future, your effectiveness as a leader will be defined by your ability to ask the right questions.”

A final question

Are you ready to start asking the right questions?