Leaders: 12 ways to ask better questions in 2013

      6 Comments on Leaders: 12 ways to ask better questions in 2013

Wondering why last year, good things happened but your performance was just ‘OK’? Was it because many of the things that needed to change remained unchanged?

It’s not leadership style. It’s the questions.

Wondering how to leverage your leadership style in a more productive way?

Wondering how you might better lead in letting your people to make the change happen?

Have you considered…

Changing the way you ask your questions?

Asking people not to bring you their problems, but to bring you their solutions instead?

Not addressing people’s questions with your own solutions?

Helping people clarify the problem by asking what they want to be different?

Asking people to think about the solution they want to create and own?

Being candid – saying difficult things and motivating people to get something done?

Acknowledging people’s idea and asking how it will be, a) useful to others, and b) how they plan to collaborate on the implementation?

Asking how to make people’s ideas fit within the strategy that others are working on?

Getting people to think about the outcomes for their solutions, not just the tactics?

Asking for solutions beyond people’s silos that will work for the customer?

Acting as a coach or mentor vs. a prescriber?

Support people in developing their own productive solutions by asking…

What’s worked until now?

What do you plan to do differently?

What small steps do you see yourself taking to make progress?

In support of this solution focused approach to better questions … change our assumptions about change (Coert Visser)…

If you’d like to help people run better meetings at which these questions are used to help make them be better engaged, productive and creating solutions, try my book Monkey-Free Meetings

“I’ve tried Kay’s Solution-Focus approach in a couple of cauldrons – Operationally, and Board-level Strategic Planning – and it never fails as a remedy against the paralysis of problem-indulgence.” Ray Verdon, Board Director, Canada


6 thoughts on “Leaders: 12 ways to ask better questions in 2013

  1. Skip Prichard

    Alan, a great thought. Better questions. Truly great questions come from listening more, something I intend to do this year. Thanks for the productivity tips.

    1. Alan Kay

      Thanks Skip. Yes, one of the notions of solution focus listening is to slow down in order to speed things up. It’s counterintuitive to our business culture, but by slowing down to ask better questions we get to solutions a lot faster. We also get to answers we may not have thought of ourselves.

      1. Skip Prichard

        I’m always struck by people who ask probing, open ended questions. Especially if they listen intently. The most successful people I’ve interviewed generally have a focus on the other people in the room. Thanks, Alan. I appreciate this post.

  2. James T Pereira

    Although I prefer people coming to me with their problems, I don’t give prescriptions but coach them by asking them to come with the solution and challenge them on the outcomes of each solution.

    1. Alan Kay

      Yes, we don’t have to be problem phobic. I recently realized a critical insight from talking with someone with whom I’ve had considerable difficulties on a personal basis. By talking explicitly about the problem between us I suddenly realized their motives. Plus, we better understood each other – we agreed to disagree.

      That said, in organizations when we dive into the problem we often head towards unproductive time exploring causality and blame. The underlying human factors are often too complex to get to an agreement on the difficulty. Instead, we can simply clarify the issue that needs to get better. Then via coaching and/or mentoring, (in the last resort, prescription), move to what we want to have happen instead.

      I also like to ask, ‘What was useful in the mistake we appear to have made?’

  3. John Leonardelli

    curiosity drives questions, which gains understanding, that improves perspectives that then can affect positive change.that is the end goal innovation or positive change that can improve an organization in so many ways

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