Listening and Asking Questions – 2 Underrated Leadership Skills

Seldom will you find listening and asking questions as important skills for leaders.

Why? Because, most leadership training focuses on speaking and persuasion. 

Think of it this way - many people make a living providing speeches for organizational events. Being a persuasive, fun speaker is highly valued. For events that you have attended, they will often have a "Keynote Speaker". Have you ever been to something where you had a "Keynote Listener"?

Of course not. It is not typically valued like speaking. And, part of the reason is speaking does not need to be personal, especially in a large group. 

Listening and Asking Questions

Listening Is Personal

Listening is very different. It is highly personal, because it helps when you hear one voice at a time. Leaders will listen, because they have other values that help create a structure to encourage them to serve rather than be served.

The skills of listening and asking questions are developed from a foundation of great values.

But, few consider listening as a critical leadership skill, much less, one of the two most critical skills. Why does GR8 Leaders believe both are so important? Because without them, you have much less chance to see inside another person's mind. It is very difficult to understand how someone thinks unless you get them to communicate with you.

And, listening combined with asking questions – the most powerful leadership skill – cretes an unbeatable combination to understand people and situations better.

But don't be fooled into thinking listening just happens. It requires energy. It also requires knowing what prevents you from listening. Check out the 7 items that prevent you from listening so that you can be aware of them.

Listening Helps Without Trying

Finally, listening helps people even if you aren't trying. People that have someone listening to them often see it as a great, positive experience. Research continues to show that people are helped if another person just listens and offers no advice.

When people have a chance to express their thoughts to another person, they often gain clarity about how they are thinking. Listening also helps people feel understood, supported and even challenged.

All of that happens when you take time to listen. It gets even better for the other person when you really know how to listen and interject helpful questions.

Asking Questions

Great listening done correctly provides the base for the second remarkable skill - Asking Questions. When you listen by "watching a mental video" as Robert Fritz teaches, questions come directly out of the "video".

Listening when coupled with questions helps leaders "see" into another person's mind - how they think. That aids great coaching and co-learning. The GR8 Leaders course 04 - Coaching Excellence has sections that focus on these two skills.

From my experience, few people will ever list Asking Questions as a powerful leadership skill. Most people think about leadership from the opposite side of the communication process. As I stated earlier, most of what I have researched and studied, people believe that the most powerful skill is related to motivating people to action using skills like persuasion or casting a vision. 

Questions are Powerful

But, the power of questions is the way questions engage the mind. It doesn't matter if the person answers the question or not. When someone asks you a question, what happens? In fact, I just did it to you. It does not have as much impact in written form as it does in personal communication, but it still works. You more likely will read further to see what the answer is to that question, right?

Your mind is wired to want to know or learn. So, when you hear a question, your mind engages to pursue the answer, even when the topic is not important to you. When you make statements that can also engage a person's mind, but questions are much better.

Try these two underrated skills and see what happens. Stop depending on your speaking and learn to listen. And, learn to ask relevant, simple, and important questions so that you can understand people and situations better.

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