In praise of Questions

(This is the “Q” installment of the series, “Alphabet for Leaders.”)

Momma said it isn’t polite to answer a question with a question. Don’t tell momma, but I think, at least on that one, she was wrong.

I bet you’ve done this. Someone asks a question and immediately you give a brilliant answer. After dispensing your pearls of wisdom, the questioner explains that you didn’t understand the question. Duh!

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Not all questions are good.

Employees who don’t want to follow directions use questions as tools to get out of performing assigned tasks. They keep asking for clarification until reverse delegation occurs.

Some questions are tools of distraction. Devious people squirm out of the spotlight by using questions to put the spotlight back on you or others. Their questions aren’t explorations they are protection devices.

Questions are the most powerful statements you can make.

Questions open windows of enlightenment. “It is not the answer that enlightens, but the question,” Decouvertes.

Questions overcome resistance. Make a statement and others naturally question it. People are pushed away. On the other hand, ask an honest question and people lean in.

Questions enable others to own their own conclusions. When I tell you the answer, I own the answer. If you arrive at the answer yourself, you own the answer.

Stupid Questions?

You may falsely believe that giving answers makes you seem wise. The opposite is true. Peter Drucker said, “My greatest strength as a consultant is to be ignorant and ask a few questions.”

Tell me who you are.

I make conclusions about others based on the questions they ask. If they don’t ask questions, I conclude they are self-absorbed and uninteresting. (I’m just being honest) Voltaire put it this way, “Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.”

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How do we ask questions poorly?

How can we craft good questions?

What other leadership “Q’s” can you offer?

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If you enjoyed this post, you might enjoy: “The Ten Best Questions Ever.”