Leaders ask questions for many reasons, but the key reason is to collect input about their team. Leaders ask questions because they care about what it’s like to be on their teams. They ask questions so they can better understand how each person is feeling and if anyone needs help or support.
And, leaders ask questions because they want their teams to contribute original ideas and because asking good questions spurs creativity. In addition, leaders ask questions to help them understand their teams’ motivations and how they work best. Leaders don’t simply bully or even make demands of their teams; rather, they ask questions to gain knowledge about their team members and use this information for the good of all.
To better a team, a leader must be able to ask effective questions. The leader must know when to ask a specific question and how to phrase it in order for their team members to answer in a way that’s useful. Asking good questions requires listening actively, being intentional, and understanding the social norms of a given situation.
Ask open-ended questions: Questions with one correct answer don’t allow for much exploration or creativity. Open-ended questions allow for a wide range of answers, especially if they involve completing a statement, such as “describe the best _________ you’ve ever had at work.”
Avoid loaded questions: Loaded questions elicit an opinion from team members rather than information. Examples of loaded questions include “don’t you think it was a bad idea to _________?” and “do you like working on this team?”
Use questions as a teaching tool: Questions allow the leader and the team to learn more about each other. If you’re struggling with something, your team can help you solve it through their knowledge and experiences. A good question shows that the leader is willing to learn and that the leader values everyone’s input.
Don’t ask questions just for the sake of asking: If you’re not truly interested in what your team members have to say, they’ll know. Don’t just ask a question so you don’t look like the one who is doing all the talking. When leaders only ask questions, they risk coming across as passive-aggressive.
Avoid yes or no questions: These types of questions only elicit a nod from team members, but don’t give the leader insight into their feelings or opinions. If you ask if people have any comments about what’s been said so far, you’ll get one word answers at best. Consider rephrasing the question to “what are your thoughts on _________?”
A few weeks ago my post on Questions to Ask During a One-on-One garnered a lot of attention. Today’s post follows a similar theme and, thanks to a tip from Shannon at Soapbox, provides 10 questions to consider asking during team meetings (with a few of my own ideas thrown in).
There are a lot of great questions and this list simply provides a few fresh ideas. What would you like to this list?
Dr. Jeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant, and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Email: email@example.com