Strong leaders know how to ask good questions—and there are certain questions every leader should ask. When we ask questions, we imply that the person we’re asking is important, that we value his or her opinion. We show others we respect them and that we value them. We show we’re interested in them and that we care.
1. How are you? No, really, how are you?
When people are asked how they’re doing several times a day, they start to give a canned answer, like “fine” or “busy.” As a leader, you may start to take answers like this for granted and neglect going deeper. But a Gallup poll said that “70 percent of Americans are disengaged at work.” Leaders have the power to change that. You can use the question “how are you” to go deeper and get to know those around you if, when you ask, you really mean it, and you listen for the answer. If someone you know is stressed, feels overwhelmed, or is about to burn out, you can’t help that person unless you know that’s how he or she feels. And you’ll likely only know it if you ask.
2. How can I help?
There’s a story about a barista who works at two different coffee shops. He loves working at one shop and just tries to get through his shifts at the other. What is the difference between the environments? In the job he loves, the managers consistently ask him if there’s anything they can do to help him do his job. Management at the other shop consistently tries to catch employees making mistakes. But leaders can also “catch” the people they lead doing things right. By pointing out the good work you’ve noticed, you reinforce it. And by asking how you can help the people you lead, you make them feel cared for. You show them that they play an important role on your team, which brings out the best in them.
3. What do you think we should do?
The answer to this question reveals a person’s perspective. When you understand a person’s perspective, you’ll start to empathize with him or her. Empathy deepens your relationship. It shows others that they matter. It communicates that you don’t only care about the person’s work, but you also care about the person. But the point of this question isn’t just to get insight into another person’s perspective of what the solution is. That’s only part of it. When you ask this question, you’re showing others that you trust them. Something changes for the people you lead when they know you trust them. They feel valued. It validates their skills and talents—and that equips your team to use them.
What good questions have the leaders in your life asked you? Share in a comment below.