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7 Questions Leaders Should Use Often

Questions are a powerful tool for every leader. The greatest leaders I know ask lots of questions.

Whenever I consult with leaders, one of the first things I do is analyze what questions the leader is asking. You only get answers to questions you ask. The better the questions, the better the answers.

Questions can challenge. They encourage discussion. They can open the process towards discovery of solutions and better ways of doing things. Plus, questions allow other people to have an opinion other than the leader – adding huge value to organizational health.

I’ve learned over the years that people often have opinions they won’t share until they are given a direct invitation to share them. I keep my door open all the time. I take pride in not being a “controlling leader.” But, it doesn’t guarantee people will share what’s on their mind. The forum has to be created for them most of the time.

Here are seven examples of questions leaders should memorize and use often:

How can we improve?

This is a practical question which, in my experience, people will enjoy answering. It can make their life better. They may have thoughts on needing more meetings – or less meetings – or better meetings. That could be valuable insight you don’t see. Even if they’ve never thought about this question, it opens their mind to ways to improve. Who doesn’t need that?

Will you help me?

Everyone wants to be wanted. They want their input to be needed. I’m not talking about dumping on people, but when a leader asks this question and genuinely invites the team into the decision-making process, they feel empowered.

How can I help you?

Knowing a leader is willing to help is huge. Even if they don’t need your help, they appreciate knowing they are truly part of a team. And, the leader is a team player.

I have even used this question to find out how I can help people in their next career-step outside the organization. The key is to genuinely care about helping the people you lead.

Do you understand what I’m saying?

This is a valuable question to follow up with after you’ve said anything, but especially when you’ve delegated a task or given someone a responsibility. Because, again, they may not ask if you don’t. Not asking this question can lead to unnecessary confusion, miscommunication and frustration.

Do you have what you need?

Giving any assignment without asking this question leaves many people unprepared and doomed for failure. Good leaders make sure the team has adequate resources to do their work.

What do you think we should do?

This question is helpful, for example, whenever there is a problem to be solved which has never been addressed before. Most likely, when the question is answered it will impact others on the team. Inviting people to help solve the issue or come to a conclusion about it gives them ownership in the solution.

What’s next for us?

This is a great brainstorming question. It forces people to dialogue about creating something new or developing something existing. It fuels momentum.

It should be noted – these questions are most helpful on healthy teams and with healthy team members. If you have an overly negative team member, for example, I wouldn’t recommend asking these questions. Or, maybe ask the “How can I help you?” one (even if that means transitioning to another place where they can be happy).

What I would also say, however, is that questions can be a way to improve the health on a team. And, sometimes even improve an unhealthy team member. It’s all in picking the right questions. And, asking them.

Finally, after you ask the question stop talking – and listen.

What questions would you add?

This article originally appeared here.

Ron Edmondson
Ron Edmondsonhttp://ronedmondson.com/
Ron Edmondson is the pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church, a church leader and the planter of two churches. He passionate about planting churches, but also helping established churches thrive. He loves assisting pastors and those in ministry think through leadership, strategy and life. His specialty is organizational leadership, so in addition to his role as a pastor, as he has time, Ron consults with church and ministry leaders. Ron has more than 35 years leadership experience, mostly as a self-employed business owner, and has been in full-time ministry for over 15 years. He has successfully led the restart of one church and the planting of two churches, and is now seeing God’s hand tremendously in church revitalization. Ron has a seminary master’s and a master’s in organizational leadership. He once helped lead (as an elected official) a mid-sized city, where he served as Vice Mayor and Finance Chair. The greatest times for Ron are with my wife Cheryl and their amazing adult sons, Jeremy, his wife Mary, and their youngest son Nate. Over 20 years ago, Ron founded a non-profit ministry called Mustard Seed Ministry, which provides devotional resources, conducts family, marriage and parenting, and church leadership seminars. Ron's INTJ personality on the Myers Briggs indicator means he has big ideas, he loves creative and critical thinking and he loves to see progress. Ron is usually around people, but craves down time. For years he was usually training for either a half or full marathon. Running was his most productive thinking time. Knee problems in recent years have caused him to stop running, but he is committed to finding the time he need to fuel my mind, body and spirit.

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