How good are you at asking questions? As an action learning coach, I work with people, helping them relearn how to ask questions in order to solve the big hairy problems that confront us. I’ve worked with intact teams to help them build trust and be more effective. I’ve worked with executive teams to begin communicating more effectively, both within the group and with their subordinates. And I’ve worked in leadership development cohorts, using action learning and questions to become better leaders.
Questions are so important. They make the recipient feel valued, respected, cared for. It’s a fundamental human behavior, and yet so many of us aren’t very good at it. Here’s how it typically looks. You ask someone a question. While they are answering, you’re already creating the next question in your head, waiting for them to stop talking so you can ask it. Right? Admit it. We just aren’t very good at it. As a result, the person doesn’t feel listened to and the conversation goes nowhere.
Asking good questions involves active listening. Try it. An exercise I frequently use is to challenge people to ask 7 questions of another person, using their response to frame the subsequent question. Invariably, when I ask for comments afterwards, they say “It was hard”.
Action learning helps people learn how to ask, be curious, be open to the response given. When you truly listen and want to hear what the person says, relationships change, trust builds, knowledge is shared and yes, things can dramatically change, and problems are resolved for good.
So, here’s a question for you. What’s your favorite question?