As a team leader, you may believe you are expected to have all the answers. However, the most successful leaders know they don’t know everything and have learned the art of asking great questions. Whether you are sitting down with a team member for a formal review, chatting with your team in a casual conversation, or engaging with a client on a project call, it is imperative to know how to ask the right questions in the right way.
Questions are especially important when it comes to coaching, training, and building relationships. With the right questions, you can develop more authentic and open communication that generates accountability, loyalty and build trusting relationships.
People need to know they are connected to you before they reveal the entire truth
Do not expect your team members to immediately open to you. Remember, people naturally have walls up, due to fear of judgement, when dealing with the team leader You can connect with your team by asking questions and then listening intently. Give your full, active attention and allow your employees to tell their story without interrupting or interjecting your own thoughts.
Start with simple questions
When you want to learn more from or about someone, make it easy to get them talking. The more they talk, the more they will reveal and the more you will learn. Consider beginning conversations with questions that are easy to understand and that the other person will enjoy answering. Ask them about themselves. Once they feel at ease, you can begin asking more direct, harder, and deeper questions.
Listen for the story
Everyone has a story to tell, and this is the basis of every conversation. Your stakeholders are not merely discussing numbers and ideas, there is a lot more to it. As a leader, you must learn to ask better questions by listening attentively and encouraging the speaker to expand on their stories. There are cues and clues that lead to emotions, roadblocks, and opportunities to coach, train and develop are buried inside these stories.
Empathy is crucial
When asking questions, learn to listen deeply with your eyes, ears, and intuition. Pay attention to visual and body language clues. This will lead you to be aware of emotional cues such as voice inflection, body language and facial expressions. When you recognize these cues, ask follow-up questions to dig deeper.
Avoid making assumptions
It is normal to think you know what your team members need or what your clients are thinking. Instead of assuming and forcing your answers on the other person, take time to ask questions and let them answer.
Asking better questions starts with building relationships. Whether you are communicating with a team member, client, or a prospect, start with questions that are easy to answer and focus on finding the story underneath the response. Demonstrate your empathy and your commitment to hearing and learning them out rather than assuming you know what they are going to say. If you want to be a great leader, learn how to ask great questions. And this will help you thrive.