Good Leaders ask Good Questions

I met with two impressive community leaders this month. I was grateful for the chance, since both of these individuals run organizations that are growing and changing like crazy. You wouldn’t think they had time to meet and mentor a lot but they make time to do these things.

That was the first thing that impressed me.

Second, was each leader’s ability to ask really good questions. To me this seemed akin to good listening but a bit more intriguing. Both of these individuals are further along in their careers than I am, yet in listening so intently they both made me feel like an equal. Each person followed up with really thought provoking questions too. A few examples included:

“What do you think is driving you to feel this way?”
“I understand ____, but can you tell me more about _____?”

They weren’t just waiting for their turn to talk or share their thoughts as a leader. They were perceptively tuning into what I was saying, then asking follow-up questions to gain greater understanding. It sounds basic but this is actually really hard.

It takes practice and it takes engaging with many, many people to refine this skill. Good questions require not only being curious but also learning how each individual thinks. Taking the time to understand what might be driving a person to say or do something.

I don’t have this skill yet. Many times in conversations my brain is jumping to solutions. I guess you could say I am a natural problem solver, but I’m starting to think this shouldn’t be my first reaction. Instead I need to ask more follow-up questions to understand the person more. The more questions you ask, the deeper level of understanding you are likely to reach. The more you are willing to learn from others, the better leader you will become.

I want to be the type of leader that asks more questions. Even with the people I don’t immediately relate to well. It’s easy to ask more questions when we find someone interesting or we have similar experiences. It’s when you cannot relate at all, when your worlds seem so far apart that asking more questions can become truly powerful.