Answer a Question With a Question?


By Joe Moore

One of the challenges for leaders and managers is making the daily grind so interesting and constructive that no one can wait to get to work! The challenge is tough – consider that many of the tasks performed in your organisation are also performed in all organisations.  A deadline is a deadline, customers are customers, reports are reports, financial reports, meetings, and we all get to experience these.

Estimates vary – what is your experience of the places where you have worked? Some say that 90% of what an organisation does is common to all organisations. Few of us get up early to go to work to be the same as everyone else though. Few organisations find that “coming here to do what 90% of all organisations do” is a useful concept in winning employer of choice.

It’s in the daily grind of our jobs where we most need to find ways to look forward to coming to work, to be energetic, and alert. Are there opportunities to improve, develop and learn in the day-to-day?

One of the things leaders and managers can do to breathe more energy and development into the day-to-day is to stop answering so many employee questions.

Just because someone asks you a question does not mean you have to answer it. It’s fine to answer a question with a question. Let’s face it – most of the questions your employees ask you are questions to which they know, or could figure out, the answers themselves. When you answer one of these questions, you are meddling.

You are meddling with employee energy and development. Look at it this way – every time you solve a problem for your employees that they could solve for themselves – you are robbing them of the opportunity to learn something, to feel progress, and to feel a little bit more alive.

Sometimes – many times – it is more helpful to answer a question with an open question and listen to the answers. When the person stops talking, you might feel their answer is finished – just pause – they will probably come up with another answer or idea.

Questions like:

  • What are you thinking?
  • How do you see it?
  • What if?
  • How would you get this done?
  • What’s a good reason for doing that?
  • What do you think you’ll do?
  • What do you think will happen?

This challenge asks you to move away from concentrating on having answers and asks you instead to focus on asking a question or two.

Build life into the day-to-day at work by building in lots of opportunities for employees to solve problems and find answers to the majority of their questions – themselves.

Joe is the founder and principal of Kimber Moore & Associates. He and his team are highly skilled in helping leaders and staff deal with uncertainty, change, complexity and conflicts. You can contact him here

About B-Cause

B-Cause is published by Cause and Effective. We help good causes find and attract effective leaders.

Thats our take on things. Over to you, please add to the discussion.

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