Why You Need To Be A Questioning Leader

October 14, 2015

1042″]“Quality questions create a quality life. Successful people ask better questions and as a result they get better answers. ”

– Tony RobbinsGreat leaders know the value of quality questions. They recognize the power of asking the right ones to unlock new ideas, build connection and shift perspective. Most of us are familiar with the saying ‘there is no such thing as a silly question’ but my question (excuse the pun!) to you is: Are we asking productive questions? Ones that lead to discovery, enact change, increase productivity and build relationships and collaboration?

All to often I meet with business leaders whose questions are firmly anchored in frustration, judgment and blame – either in themselves or their team members. Why is this happening to me? What’s wrong with me/them? When will my life or career improve? Why can’t they just get on with it? What on earth is the problem now?

When we ask negatively framed questions we yield negative responses. Answers such as: Life isn’t fair, I’m just not lucky enough, or I’m not good enough seem to abound. They keep us stuck and cause us to focus on the hurdles and ultimately disempower rather than empower. They have the potential to send us into a tailspin of self-doubt and self-sabotage. Whilst great care needs to be taken in how we ask questions we also need to consider how we pose them so as to ensure we are moving towards a solution, removing roadblocks and acting as catalysts for change – both for ourselves and the businesses we lead.

Rick Smith, founder of World 50 – a premier senior networking organization for global executives – believes that we live in a world where today’s leaders are addicted to answers. He advocates for the need for leaders to shift this addiction to asking the right questions. As he notes, in chaotic and ever changing competitive business landscapes, success requires focus, and knowing where to focus will be determined by the questions you are asking.

Not only does asking the right people the right questions drive great answers and outcomes for your business, it can also deliver great benefits to you as a leader. Innovation, confidence, capability, engagement and productivity levels all stand to be enhanced when the right questions are asked. Demonstrating a genuine interest and care of concern for the individuals and the outcomes fosters loyalty and commitment. Of course the key is to ask questions in a way that seeks to deliver insight, learning and support rather than acting as a trigger to defensiveness. To do this we need to not just ask the questions but also demonstrate the ability to listen to the answers provided and suspend judgment. It is about really listening to understand and discover the meaning behind what is being said.
I would encourage to you ask yourself the following questions about you as a leader, your team and your organization?

1. What Must I Do To Lead Myself Successfully? Great leaders take the time to ask themselves questions that raise their own self-awareness and examine ways that they can improve or adapt the way they do things.

a. What are my blind spots?

b. What daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly actions can I take to strengthen my knowledge, capability and insight as a leader?

c. Who can I collaborate with to compliment my strengths and gaps?

d. Who can I engage with to provide candid and constructive feedback?

2. What Does My Team Need To Achieve Success? Great leaders know how to probe the thought process of their team members to uncover how they are individually and collectively performing and what roadblocks need to be removed, gaps need to be addressed and relationships need support.

a. Do I have the right people in the right place at the right time to ensure success?

b. Are people clear on what they need to achieve and by when?

c. Who are they key influencers in my team?

d. Are there any individual coaching requirements needed to elevate performance and or new learning opportunities? Who is the best person to provide that?

e. What conversations are needed to ensure that performance and behaviors support success and am I prepared to have them?

f. Am I available enough / too much to support productive, timely outcomes?

3. How Can The Organisation Function More Successfully? Great leaders recognise their obligation to contribute not just on an individual level but also at a whole of business level. They examine the ways their organization functions to ensure cultural alignment, maximum efficiency and productivity. They ask questions about behaviours, practices, processes and structures.

a. Why do we do things this way?

b. Is there a better, more streamlined way?

c. What are the risks and benefits of changing the way we do this?

d. Who is impacted most by this change and what needs to be done to ensure a smooth transition?

Ultimately the reason we ask questions is to build meaning and to ‘connect the dots’. Learning to ask empowering questions will ultimately shape the meaning we create and the quality of our success. As leaders we need to be doing this at all three levels: self, team and business if we are to create a lasting impact at an individual and business level.

As always I would love to hear your thoughts below.


Margot – The Career DiplomatIf you would like to explore ways to build confidence, clarity and choice in your career please contact Margot on 0400 336 318.