July 20, 2009

Questions managers should use to develop thinking and problem solving

Asking the right questions can help subordinates gain confidence and be better contributors says Michael J. Marquardt, the author of Leading with Questions: How Leaders Find the Right Solutions by Knowing What to Ask (John Wiley & Sons, 2005).

Judith Ross notes on HBR Blog that leaders need to ask questions that inspire folks to think in new ways, expand range of vision, and enable greater contribution to the organization. Both Judith and Michael suggest that empowering knowledge workers involve encouragement to be better thinkers and problem solvers.

Judith suggests that empowering questions create following values:
  1. They create clarity: "Can you explain more about this situation?"
  2. They construct better working relations: Instead of "Did you make your sales goal?" ask, "How have sales been going?"
  3. They help people think analytically and critically: "What are the consequences of going this route?"
  4. They inspire people to reflect and see things in fresh, unpredictable ways: "Why did this work?"
  5. They encourage breakthrough thinking: "Can that be done in any other way?"
  6. They challenge assumptions: "What do you think you will lose if you start sharing responsibility for the implementation process?"
  7. They create ownership of solutions: "Based on your experience, what do you suggest we do here?"
To read a more complete post on what questions leaders need to ask and how to create a culture that embraces questions, read Judith's HBR blog entry here.