Asking questions is a part of life. You likely ask questions when you order food or want to learn more about your children’s day at school.
Some professionals, like doctors and lawyers, are trained to ask questions:
Although of a different nature, business managers must ask their staff and colleagues questions to keep daily operations running smoothly. Further, not asking the right questions can adversely affect the company, customers, and employees.
In this article, we’ll explore how senior leadership can improve their questioning skills to benefit themselves and their organizations.
You learn more by asking questions. In a business setting, asking questions allows you to have greater insight into the challenges faced by your teams. Taking the time to solicit questions and concerns from your employees can prevent charging ahead with strategies that won’t truly serve their needs.
When leaders make a habit of asking questions, they can learn more about their customer’s needs too. For instance, if a business is faced with a decline in sales, leaders can contact clients to understand what may be spurring the change. The information they receive can be invaluable, allowing the organization to make strategic adjustments.
Simply asking more questions isn’t enough to get answers from staff or customers. Instead, framing your questions to promote further interaction and engagement will bring the most positive results.
Whether you’re searching for solutions to problems or checking in with your team members or customers, you don’t want to sound like an interrogator. You don’t want every answer to be a simple yes or no, either. Instead, your questions should be interesting and open-ended.
There are several ways to develop your questioning skills:
There are four types of questions: introductory, mirror, full-switch, and follow-up.
An introductory question opens a conversation but doesn’t elicit much information. Mirror questions respond to the introductory question with a similar question. A full-switch question changes the topic of the conversation, and a follow-up question seeks to gain more information.
Consider the following conversation:
The last question opens the discussion up to more information. Person A can elaborate on why they asked their full-switch question and explain any changes they expected to revenue.
Most people don’t like to get interrogated. If you begin with a barrage of questions that an employee can only answer with yes or no, the respondent may feel like you’re pushing them into a corner. Instead, allowing the conversation to flow naturally and asking open-ended questions can provide more insight into the person’s thoughts or beliefs.
As a manager, it’s best to begin conversations with a worker in a friendly manner. Once they loosen up, you can start asking them questions about the matter you’re concerned with. Tell them why you’re concerned if they don’t wish to discuss the topic. Sometimes explaining and assuring them they aren’t in trouble will be enough to encourage them to speak freely.
The order of your questions should vary depending on your goals. For instance, if you’re trying to obtain more details from someone very private, start with comfortable questions they’ll likely be able to answer easily. Gradually increase the intrusiveness of your questions. Most people will open up as the conversation goes on.
No one likes to feel scrutinized. If the person you’re asking questions of senses that you’re too formal or only want information and not to build a relationship, they’ll likely deem you untrustworthy. They may attempt to cut off the conversation or completely shut down.
People tend to trust others more when they have a friendly tone. The person answering doesn’t feel like their words are under scrutiny, and they’ll be more willing to share.
A conversation is like a tango that requires input from both parties. You’ll ask questions, but your partner should feel comfortable asking questions as well.
When you answer a question, consider how transparent you’ll be. Transparency can improve the quality and results of a conversation while keeping information hidden can diminish trust between conversation partners.
People often assume that revealing damaging information about themselves will harm their reputation or lessen them in others’ eyes. However, the opposite is usually true. Individuals feel more comfortable with people they deem trustworthy and willing to share.
If you’re in a position where revealing negative information about yourself or your company could prove detrimental, attempt to dodge the question. Instead, provide an answer to another question that’s similar to the original question. Dodging questions results in a redirect of the conversation to another topic.
Asking questions may seem like an elementary skill, but it’s essential for business activities, including contract negotiations, building effective teams and processes, and creating rapport with clients. Managers who don’t ask questions are less likely to learn important information and may struggle to lead their businesses.
Developing a strategy for asking questions can help you understand more about others and improve the efficiency of your organization.
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With our executive recruiters, you get senior partner-led searches, due diligence-run networking, meticulous candidate vetting, and so much more, all geared towards one goal — placing the very best talent as soon as possible, all while ensuring a seamless fit with your company culture, your big-picture objectives, and other factors. Plus, we have one of the highest candidate retention rates in the industry while consistently delivering world-class talent faster than the competition.
That’s how Cowen Partners has become a leading executive search firm nationwide, and it’s why our executive recruiters have a reputation for excellence and success.
We also invite you to continue exploring more executive recruiting insights from our team: