The best leaders don’t have all the perfect answers, and they realize it. But to find the best answers, they know they must ask all the right questions. That’s the difference between a good leader and a great one. Novelist, Thomas Berger said, “The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge.” Writer, Arthur C. Clarke said, “I don’t pretend we have all the answers. But the questions are certainly worth thinking about.” And writer and philosopher, Voltaire, even said, “Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.”
Great leaders see questions as the best way to open doors of opportunity with their teams, and the best means to start new conversations. And it is only through relatability, conversation, and real-world application that the best answers are revealed. Great leaders understand that using practicality and logic are important, but they also understand that people are more important.
So, if you’re looking to find better answers, here are the three types of questions you should be asking:
Putting other people down is never a good idea, and this includes when you are attempting to have others confidently produce great answers. A great question that always encourages people in the right area is, “Will what you are working on right now bring you benefit tomorrow?” If the answer is “yes,” then that person will be encouraged to keep pressing forward. But if the answer is “no,” then that person will know that they need to change their area of focus until they can answer, “yes.” Encourage people to keep pursuing the right efforts, and find better answers.
Use challenging questions to make people think. Using this as a filter eliminates “yes” or “no” questions and shows the importance of open-ended questions. This also means that questions should cause people to evaluate and research each given scenario.
I absolutely love the two questions, “Are you avoiding anything?” and “Are you missing anything?” Many times people, including myself, will avoid necessary steps to finding the best possible answer. This is because we don’t either want to take the time, or the effort, or the energy, so we choose the first available shortcut instead. The problem with this is that shortcuts always produce the worst answers. Face your fears, and take more time to produce better answers.
When people aren’t clear with what they’re saying, confusion for everyone involved is closeby. One of my favorite questions to provide more clarity with is, “What do you mean by that?” Questions like this one can only help others communicate exactly what they are trying to say. I have rarely found over-communication to be a bad thing. Pushing for clarity helps everyone to get on the same page, and doing so can only make everyone produce better answers.
Yes, asking great questions is a skill that needs to be developed, but as with anything useful, it takes time. This is a practice that is a must to become better, and a great place to start is with asking these three types of questions. Now, go and ask better questions, today.
Originally published at medium.com