“Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.”
The types of questions that one asks, as are asked, serve as a barometer of leadership effectiveness and capability. You can break this up into two broad categories.
First, the questions one asks indicate a desire to understand. Habit number six of the Stephen Covey “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” is “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” I love this particular habit and it is one of my absolute favorites. The quality of the questions you ask sends a strong message to the person you are engaged with. It lets them know that you care, that you are deeply interested in what they have to say, that you are prioritizing THEM at that moment in your relationship. Demonstrating an ability to ask good questions that provoke deep thought AND communicate genuine care and concern is a critical element of effective leadership.
Second, as a leader the questions that others ask you serves as an incredible feedback mechanism on your ability to communicate with clarity as well as the overall effectiveness of your leadership and the culture you have created.
By paying attention to the specific content contained within the questions you are asked one can get immediate feedback on your ability to communicate and create understanding. The burden of communication is on the sender of the message and by listening to the questions not just to provide an answer, but to measure one’s effectiveness as a communicator one can refine and improve the message that is being delivered.
The types of questions that are asked provides a strong message about the culture of leadership you are creating. Are people willing to ask deep questions that challenge your thinking or position on a topic you are discussing? If so, then you have created a positive leadership environment that values doing what is right over being right. But if the questions being asked dance around the tough topics or, perhaps more importantly, they aren’t asked at all, then as a leader you are getting incredibly valuable feedback on the culture that you have created.
Pay close attention to the questions being asked. They can tell a very compelling story…