Asking questions can stimulate ideas, solve problems, develop trust and build your relationship with your team, even when working remotely. In this blog, I share my thoughts on the kinds of questions we should be asking to show support for our team members and how we can approach asking them.
Albert Einstein famously said, “question everything”.
As communicators and as leaders, it’s important we know how to ask questions. We also need to know how to listen to the answers, but that’s a topic for another week!
In Dale Carnegie’s classic book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, he suggests we “ask questions the other person will enjoy answering.” While this isn’t always possible in the workplace, one thing we do know is that not enough questions get asked.
Asking questions is important for so many reasons! It shows that we have an interest in the other person, which leads to greater trust.
Asking questions can stimulate ideas and learning and can help solve a problem – big or small.
Asking questions can also demonstrate vulnerability and encourage people to share their vulnerabilities.
Types of questions
There are two main types of questions, but both types should be used:
1. Closed questions that have a yes / no answer – for example, are you happy today?
2. Open questions where people can give a lengthier response – for example, why do you feel happy today?
What questions should I be asking?
I often get asked what questions we should be asking, but obviously, it depends on what you want to find out. Right now, as many of us are grappling with new working environments, some of the questions I’m suggesting to clients are:
- What do you need from me right now?
- Is there anything you need to be able to do your job better?
- Who are you sharing your workspace with?
- What else is going on in your home/life right now?
- How are you feeling?
- What are you doing to look after yourself?
How to ask personal questions
A friend was recently telling me that one of her staff isn’t performing as well as she expected in his new work-from-home environment. When she asked him what else is going on in his life right now, his response helped her better understand his current situation so she could provide more appropriate support.
Of course, personal questions need to be framed in a way that shows you are genuinely interested and caring, rather than being a nosy busy-body. Start by asking permission to ask a more personal question, and then begin gently, and with the necessary amount of empathy. Also, make sure you listen to the answer and ask relevant follow-up questions if needed.
When I used to have to ask my team personal questions, I’d often start by sharing something personal and a little bit vulnerable.
Of course, the more your people know, love and trust you, the more they will be willing to be asked, and to answer, your questions.
What questions are you asking right now?
I’d love to know.