The skill of asking questions is quickly fading into the sunset. A business colleague recently told me how discouraged he is that graduate students he is teaching, do not ask questions. All they want to know is what they need to memorize for upcoming exams.
I’m deeply saddened by this because I revel in asking questions. As a consultant and coach, I learned years ago that a great consultant and coach is one who asks clients the right questions. It’s not the answers that help a client at first, it is the questions. Asking questions opens up possibilities that may not have been considered for problem solving, generating ideas, or developing innovative processes.
How do you learn to ask questions?
- Check out this Harvard Business Review article “Relearning the Art of Asking Questions” that offers four types of questions – clarifying, adjoining, funneling, and elevating. Each are aimed for a different purpose. There is a short video embedded in the article that explains the four types of questions.
I’ve facilitated a critical thinking seminar over the years for a client in the senior care retirement industry. I teach new Executive Directors how to ask questions. The following is an example of an exercise from the seminar.
- Issue to be addressed: Will Baby Boomers want to live in senior care retirement communities?
- Ask questions beginning with who, what, where, when, how and why
- Try to come up with at least 10 questions.
- Debrief: What did you learn by asking questions? What was it like for you to ask questions vs. initially coming up with answers or solutions?
Invariably, the participants struggle to identify questions. Sometimes a small group can only come up with a few questions, while other groups are so motivated their list can exceed 10 questions. What do the participants learn and experience?
- Emotional relief that they can ask questions rather than have to solve the issue.
- There is no right or wrong question, but there are questions that are more in-depth and informative.
- The exercise opened their eyes to possibilities and issues they had not considered.
- The Executive Directors contemplate how they will use this method of inquiry with their leadership team.
John Maxwell in his book Good Leaders Ask Great Questions says: “The more questions I ask, the more valuable I recognize them to be. Without the wise counsel and insightful answers I’ve received to questions over the decades, I wonder where I would be today.”
If you are struggling with launching a project or planning future initiatives, contact me to help your team “ask the right questions.