Ask people what they think is the most powerful leadership skill, and few people will list our GR8 Leaders program's beliefs. Most people and leadership trainers would not list this critical skill as critical.
In the material that I have researched and studied, people believe that the most powerful skills relate to motivating people to action, such as persuasion or casting a vision. While those are valuable skills, I believe the most powerful skill is...
Unfortunately, that may sound strange, even crazy, but here are three reasons why Asking Questions is the most powerful leadership and relationship skills.
1. Questions engage the mind; answered or not
When someone asks you a question, what happens? Actually, I just did it to you. But, it does not have as much impact in written form as in personal communication, although it still works.
What happened in your mind? The question encourages you to read further to see the answer, right?
Why? Your mind wants to know things - it is the way God made it. So, someone asks you a question; your mind engages in pursuing the answer. It happens even when the topic is not all that important to you. Of course, being interested in the topic helps, but the question alone can engage the mind.
Without a doubt, making a statement engages a person's mind to a degree, but it highly depends on the topic and the speaker's skill. Yes, questions require skill also, but the query does most of the work to help your information or insights grab a person’s attention.
Why not try it and see what happens? Instead of depending on your oratory skills or persuasiveness, practice asking questions. When you work on asking relevant, simple, and essential questions, you experience the power of questions, and you may even come to believe it is the most powerful leadership skill.
2. Questions encourage growth and discovery
Additionally, because your mind wants to know the answer, you can use questions to energize your growth and the growth of those around you. So, when you begin to use questions, you increase or aid your curiosity.
But, one of the biggest obstacles to asking questions is you assume you already know something. It is easy to speculate, assume, or opine about an issue or a person's actions rather than ask questions to discover facts. In those times, you won't use the most powerful leadership skill. Instead, you rely on your ability to speculate or try to read a person's mind.
3. Questions help you see how other people think
This is probably the most valuable element of why asking questions is the most powerful leadership skill. To persuade, it is highly beneficial to understand how people think. For example, do you know what they want? Do you have insight into how they look at the problem, solution, or next action?
When you ask questions, you get that additional benefit. That is especially true when you use Observational Listening. What is that? It is a skill where you turn a conversation into a mental video. Yes, people can lie to you, but if you ask good questions and picture what people say, it becomes rather evident that something does not "add up."
And, when you ask questions, always check your question with the Ultimate Question. Sometimes the question you ask is bad. Fortunately, it is easy to tell most of the time because the person is having a difficult time with it. That means you need to ask yourself...
"What's a better question to ask?"
When you develop listening and asking questions skills, you develop some effective yet highly underrated skills. Try asking questions to see if you might agree that it is the most powerful leadership skill. Or, just let me know what you think is more powerful.
Some Question Templates to Use
As a starter kit, try some of the following question templates
5 Questions for Clarity & Focus
- What end result do we want?
- Where are we now?
- What steps are needed to reach the result?
- What is the next best action to take right now?
- Based on the current actions, what are we learning?
7 All Purpose Questions
- What is the purpose?
- What method will be used to accomplish this?
- Will the customers care about this at all?
- What is your premise, theory, or assumption?
- What data do you have?
- Where does your data come from?
4 Questions to Prepare for Leading
- Will I focus on RESULTS and RELATING, not my comfort?
- Am I living according to my VALUES, not reacting/responding to others?
- Am I willing to SERVE and DEVELOP others, not make everything about ME?
- Will I look at reality objectively and LEARN from what is happening, not rationalize?
Learn More About Team Members
- - What challenges you most at work?
- - What things upset you at work?
- - At work, what do you appreciate?
- - What are your concerns about work?
- - What helps you feel appreciated at work?
- - Which parts of work are more difficult for you?
- - What talents/strengths do you think you contribute to the team?
- - Do you have some specific concerns for the team?
- - What talents/strengths would you like to have?
- - What else does the team need for success?
Questions for Customers
- - What do you need from us that you are not getting?
- - Are you getting anything from us that you do not want or need?
- - What motivates you to do business with us?
- - What motivates you to do business with our competitors?
- - How and when have we made it hard for you to do business with us?
- - If you were me, what’s one thing you would change about my organization?
I hope those help you use questions more often!