If you have tough problems, you need answers. And, you can’t get great answers unless you know how to ask great questions. Ask the right questions – and you get the right answers.
All great leaders know how to bring a situation to a head and ask the question. Groups of people tend to go on and on (and on) about certain issues and nothing is ever resolved. Great leaders need to intervene and bring the discussion to both conclusions and action points. Meaning, they know when the discussion needs to be over and conclusions need to be drawn. They bring closure to the situation at hand by asking really profound questions.
Great questions can unlock information, generate insight, and morph into wisdom in almost any situation (when the right question is posed).
Great leaders use these great questions to go deep; unlocking doors and inner motivations that would otherwise be left dormant. The truth of any tough situation is infrequently on the top shelf, it is usually safely stored away in compartments of self-delusions and hidden in the corner of the basement.
Some leaders naturally ask great questions and take that skill for granted. Admittedly, others have to work very hard at it (myself included).
These great questions can give leaders the ability to lead – the answers to these questions allow the leader to see:
- What needs to be done next
- Knowing the “why” behind what is being done
- Knowing what resources need to be in place to execute the decision
Asking great questions can both mine for and clarify the truthful facts. And, once the facts are clear, the decisions start jumping out at you.
I am frequently amazed at how much we hold sacred each other’s illusions (I am also guilty of this). If someone decides to come out and tell the truth, then we will all be forced to do the same thing and risk being exposed. To what?? The truth! The truth is very sought after by many people, so we think. Yet, it is so often avoided. This is what great leaders understand. And, they break through those barriers, because they are leaders!
Here are just some examples of some of the greatest questions I have heard asked that were complete “fog cutters” – you may need to take some time to reflect on how these questions must be answered (truthfully) and how much the answer can reveal to you, and how it could deepen your understanding (and thus, your relationship) of that person:
- For somebody you are interviewing for a job: What have you learned from your biggest failures in life?
- For a friend, colleague, or customer: Who do you know that you think I should try to get to know?
- When brainstorming a business challenge: Of all the options we can consider, which one is best for the long-term of the company?
- When considering new business opportunities: If we pursue this opportunity, what will we do if it turns out to be 100 times better than we had planned?
- A key decision: What will happen if we make the right decision but at the wrong time? What decision would we make if money was not an issue?
- When facing a career change: How will this change affect my spouse? My children?
- Getting focused: What are the three things that I could do that would be most pleasing to God and to my family? If I were allowed to do only one thing in my work-life, what would that thing be?
- When spending time with a friend: Is there anything weighing on your heart today? How can I help?
When I read through the New Testament, especially the 4 Gospels, it is filled with question marks, especially when Jesus is being quoted. It is very clear that Jesus’ teaching style was founded in asking very deep, provocative questions. He was not necessarily trying to just teach doctrine and law. He wanted people to look inside themselves and answer the questions in truthful ways that they already knew to be true. The truth is already tattooed on our hearts. Our sinful minds try to cover up that truth in order to avoid any pains it will cause. In fact, we are experts at masking the truth.
Jesus was constantly bringing things to a close with profound, deep questions. He used these questions to teach and to lead. But, he wasn’t really lecturing (he did some lectures, of course, but this was a fraction of how he taught). He was provoking people to enlighten themselves to see what they already knew to be true. In fact, he was leading them rather than sharing with them any new information. Jesus asked question after question (and remember that the Gospels are only a small fraction of what could have been written about Jesus and his life), and he empowered people to solve their own challenges and/or internal struggles. They already knew the truth, they just needed a shove! Jesus was truth…he was “truth” wrapped inside the flesh. He was the truth and the light. So, what better way to lead us to that than to unmask our own lies and delusions?
Jesus believed that the truth sets us free, and that seems pretty obvious when you think about it. He was a great leader, and he led people to discover those truths. In my opinion, he did this better than any other man in history.
Any leader can become great by asking the question, at the right time, and in the right way. This is how great leaders ensure that an organization comes to the right conclusions and that everyone can understand the real truth of any situation.
If you ask great questions you will get great answers!