“The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge.”

Thomas Berger

Questions: The Gift of Learning

I love good questions. They are awesome, powerful tools to invoke insight and frankly, asking the right questions should be a competency of all leaders.

Questions challenge assumptions.

They help you think, they help you get to the bottom of situations, and if you’re honest with your answers, they may even scare you a bit.

Engaging conversations are sparked by great questions. People don’t ask enough questions and if they do, they’re generally mundane questions. And if you are going “to do questions right”, you have to be prepared to listen, really listen to the answers.

Why are questions so important?

Because it gives you the gift of learning.

You learn about your client, your boss, your employee, or maybe a friend. Questions enable you to connect. Questions truly are a gift in conversation.

Good Questions Do These Things

1. Help problem solving by using critical thinking skills - One of the most effective ways to approach any problem is to ask questions about it. You keep asking ‘why’ until you get to the core issue. Skillful use of inquiry is the cornerstone of critical thinking. Great thinkers don’t get embarrassed to ask seemingly immature questions. The basic questions can often be the most effective because it’s the simple ones that are more prone to be overlooked.

2. Help shift perspective to solutions – Questions trigger creative thinking skills. They give you an opportunity to conceptualize a more investigative approach which lends itself to new insights.

For example, take a statement such as “Ways to Improve My Career” and turn it into a question like “In what ways can I improve my career?”, or “Where are the opportunities for improving my current career? Reframing self-limiting situations as questions put you in the driver’s seat by directing your focus on solutions and not just thoughts.

3. Better leadership through collaboration - Questions are a great way to stimulate your employees’ thinking. If used skillfully, they work better than just telling someone what to do or filling their head with ideas. It’s a method of collaborative exploration.

For example ask: “What would happen if we (fill in the blank)?”, “What solutions can we see here?” “What else have we not thought of”, “What do you think we should do and why?”

4. Create meaningful conversation - Questions are the glue of genuine dialogue. They energize conversations and they invite people to participate and to share insights and opinions. When you use them properly, people will be an active participate. They feel listened to and will be much more likely to engage in meaningful and productive conversations.

5. Self-Reflection – Questions help us examine and explore our inner passions. They help us connect our life pursuits with what really matters (if we’re honest with ourselves).

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Some Favorite Questions

Here are a list of some favorite thought-provoking questions, particularly as it relates to goal setting and obstacles. How do you answer these?

Let us know what you think!