I began my career as a "teller," speaking at colleagues by sharing my knowledge focused on proving my professional capabilities. Maybe this was a desire to demonstrate my ability and stand out in a crowd of highly capable professionals, but I eventually realized what and how the words came out of my mouth mattered.
Transitioning from a directive "telling" communication style to an inquisitive questioning style can be a crucial pivot in a career journey into engaging leadership. This change in communication style allows knowledge and insights to be gained from others, fosters better decision making and ultimately morphs many into more engaged leaders. Increasing curiosity can enable a leader to embrace the concept of being a lifelong learner and hone their ability to impact.
When was the last time you checked your balance of telling versus asking thought-provoking questions? What do you notice when others communicate via queries and how do they show up as a leader? Are you leading a group of people leaders and what questions are they asking to gain knowledge?
Here are five reasons why you should increase your ability to ask compelling questions.
It forces you to listen
When you are busy telling people what to do, it's difficult to be a good listener. Despite sounding elementary, it's difficult for many to put into practice. Beyond just asking the question, a good question should follow with the ability to embrace silence that may result from a formidable inquiry. Often questions are asked, and the asker feels the need to explain further when the response is silence. Try asking, being comfortable in silence, then listening for the answer.
You learn new stuff
It's easy to get comfortable in a domain of expertise and feel like you know everything there is to know. If you've worked in a sector or function for a long time, this can be an especially common phenomenon. If you're this person and operate with a directive communication style, try asking some questions. My assumption is your area of expertise is evolving due to multiple factors and curiosity will assist in your ability to stay up to date and relevant.
Questions challenge others to think deeper
If you are leading a team, one of your responsibilities is to develop the members of the group. If you continuously tell employees what to do and not do, development can stagnate. We operate in teams because pulling brainpower together can produce positive outcomes and the leader who makes all the decisions can miss opportunities. When a colleague shares an idea or solution with you, try asking a question before providing your opinion. You may be surprised by the depth of thinking this could generate.
Gains in the diversity of thinking
We all view the world through a lens where assumptions develop from experiences during our life and career journey. These assumptions result in our interpretation of the world and more importantly shape our thoughts. You can gain a different perspective by asking a question to a colleague with their own story. It's as easy as asking, "What are your thoughts?" Opening your mind to realize unique thoughts from those who bring a diversity of thinking can positively impact decisions and innovations. Others' perspectives are an invaluable gift for you.
Ability to change your mind
Change can be difficult, especially when it involves a mindset! You have some great ideas, are likely well versed in the job you perform and have the ability to engage with others through questions to generate even better outcomes by listening to answers. Decisiveness is a leadership quality, although the ability to validate your decision by way of asking for input and healthy challenge, can result in an entirely higher level of leadership outcomes.
Listening, learning, developing others, innovating and decision making are all measurable skills of a good leader. If increasing your practice of asking powerful questions helps amplify your leadership ability, why wouldn't you try it?
JAR Leadership Coaching is a results-oriented organization working with executives and teams to improve effectiveness in the workplace. We specialize in executive coaching, individual and team assessment and customized development for the sake of positively impacting results. For more information, reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.jarleadershipcoaching.com