Characteristics of good leadership include a desire to learn and curiosity. Why? Because they help you engage your leadership and your employees. As a leader, you have a responsibility to use those characteristics to communicate clearly, build connections and produce results. And a tool that will help you shine with that responsibility is mastery of asking power questions.
A hallmark of strong leadership is the ability to ask astute questions whether to your colleagues and superiors or your employees. At the heart of that ability is curiosity. And curiosity is rooted in power questions.
6 Reasons to Lead Using Power Questions
Establish clarity: Asking questions helps get everyone on the same page. All too often people are perceiving things differently. They may hear something different than what was meant or interpret something in another way than was intended. Inquiring can help get ahead of chaos before it begins. Good questions lay a foundation for more clear communication, and they challenge current thinking.
Challenge thinking: Asking questions gets you and your employees out of status quo thinking and ready responses. Inquiries can reframe a problem, shed light on assumptions and uncover new information. They can force your team into research, provide a teaching tool or get right at the heart of a matter. Power questions transform thinking and redefine relationships.
Redefine relationships: Asking questions moves you away from the hierarchical leadership structure. When you advise, provide the answers or give direction, you are placing yourself in a superior position. Alternately, when you inquire, you are positioning yourself as member of the team. You become a peer working along side them rather than the boss dictating from above. Leading as an equal changes individual relations and team dynamics. It deepens connections and generates buy-in.
Generate buy-in: Asking questions moves your employees beyond passive acceptance. When they’ve applied critical thinking and unleashed creative abilities, they have a stake in the issue, problem or situation. Answers they believe in and ideas they have are forthcoming. Consequently, they are more likely to buy-in and produce results.
Produce results: Asking questions leads to buy-in, which in turn gets results. Research shows that people are more driven to act upon their own ideas and solutions. A majority of the time, your employees know what to do. They need your encouragement and facilitation to share their perspectives and offer their opinions. When they come up with the answers, they are more likely to move forward with motivation and empowerment.
Empower others: Asking questions sends a message of respect. First it says that you have confidence in their abilities. You are asking them to step up. Second it demonstrates that you value their contributions. You are acknowledging their capabilities. Inviting them to contribute as resident experts empowers them to exert their own leadership and develop professionally in the process.
While there is a time and place for giving orders, most of the time power questions offer the right leadership tool. In the book Power Questions: Build Relationships, Win New Business and Influence Others, authors Andrew Sobel and Jerold Panas provide 337 essential questions to help you succeed at work and in life. The book is an easy and interesting read. Thirty-four short chapters illustrate questions to transform conversations and situations based upon a variety of circumstances.
Curious? How might power questions engage your leadership and employees?