Good Habits #32: Ask Good Questions

By | April 21, 2017

[April 21, 2017]  Here at I like to encourage habits that make leaders effective.  In that context, I’ve found whenever a leader asks good questions, good things happen.  Indeed, this is a significant fact that cannot be overlooked by those who fill the role of leader.  There is, however, some confusion I will clear up.  Two key points.

First, there are many types of questions.  Some are designed to encourage sage thinking.  Others are to show we care, demonstrate respect, and produce courteous behavior.  And some are asked, but are really just orders or requests to be carried out.  These are not what I’m writing about today.

Second, the ability to ask good, pertinent questions is a fundamental talent of good leadership.  It should be exercised daily and with care.  Such questions, asked skillfully, can do two things to enhance communications.  They can elicit information that is useful to fill in gaps of knowledge and data; usually to improve a leader’s decision making.  And good questions can help verify existing information, ensuring confidence that what we know is accurate or, at least, what is generally known and unknown at the time.

“Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.” –  Voltaire, French Enlightenment philosopher

A comment is in order to set straight a common misconception.  Like me, you’ve been told that there is no such thing as a stupid question.  Wrong.  Stupid questions do happen and can be misinterpreted, mislead, irritate, waste time and resources, and also tarnish one’s credibility.  When a leader isn’t focused, it can come out in the form of a bad question for all to hear and to wonder if that person is intellectually up to the task.

Thinking through a question before it is asked is a good start.  It should be asked so that it is least likely to be misunderstood.  Repetition is also helpful.  Asking the same question to many people will provide a variety of answers that can be synthesized for a common understanding, test consistency, and reliability.  I would also recommend not interrupting someone answering your question.

Ask good questions daily.  Review and analyze your question and ask yourself how it could be asked in a better way.  Remember that the very best leaders among us are those who are asking good questions.

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Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.