Every executive’s skillset should include the art of questioning. To truly unlock value in organisations, questioning skills need to be honed to build trust, foster innovation and problem-solving, as well as improve performance.
Recent behavioural science research sheds light on how leaders can frame questions, decide what is appropriate to share, and choose the tone of their delivery.
Ask = receive
Ask enough (and the right) questions and you’ll gain valuable insight into an organisation.
What are your goals?
Are your questions cooperative or competitive? This will influence what you ask and how you answer.
Byreturning to a subject previously covered, you indicate you’re a good listener and want to engage further. This builds trust and a stronger business relationship.
Open-ended questions can be productive
Know when to push for a definitive answer or probe a little more sensitively. Sometimes the latter can produce more honest responses, depending on the situation.
Sequence is key
Learn to gauge whether to begin with the tougher questions or to escalate from less aggressive questioning to more intrusive queries.
A judgment-free tone can be effective for unlocking more honest answers.
One-on-one and group conversations: More reserved or more forthcoming answers may depend on who else is listening and contributing.
Degree of transparency (to share or not to share)
While risks of divulging sensitive information must be considered, transparency is generally more beneficial to building healthy working relationships than a more guarded approach to responding to questions.
Be willing to ask enough questions, and provide thoughtful answers when questioned in turn. Build a relationship where engagement is encouraged, and the results are sure to be positive and constructive. Learn more about the power of questions on hbr.org.
Gain the tools for constructive communication and transformation
BRG’s Multipliers program is tailored for executives who seek to unlock the genius in others by tapping into their intelligence and asking the right questions.