Listen and Ask

I’m a student of the art of asking questions. My experience is that the quality of the questions you ask can make an amazing difference in your professional (and personal) discussions.

Leaders who ask great questions have more interactive dialogue with their team members and hopefully create an environment where questioning and curiosity becomes the norm, not the exception.

I was thinking about this after meeting with someone for the first time earlier this week. During our conversation, he made a throw away comment not directly related to our discussion. I picked up on it, though, and asked a few questions. The upshot was a different direction in our conversation which resulted in a richer and more productive discussion.

In this case, we built rapport faster because of my curiosity in what interests him. It provided me with different ideas on how to follow up. And, as a bonus, I learned something new as well.

Listening is an essential element of asking great questions. You need to “listen between the lines” so that you can delve deeper where appropriate. This is as important when working with your staff as it is when you’re meeting with clients.

One idea is to take a theme and drill down into more questions based on the initial answer. As an example, when meeting with an important client, you might start with something like, “Which trends currently have the most impact on your business?” After the person answers, you ask successive questions, such as these:

+ Tell me more about trend X.
+ How did this trend first influence your company?
+ How does it affect your competitors?
+ What is the outlook because of trend X?
+ Are there new opportunities because of trend X?

As you can see, one question can spawn others that could provide some rich insights.

Your strong questions can lead to great ideas, new connections, and fresh insights. The art of asking great questions is a skill worthy of ongoing practice. Let me know how it works for you, and of course, feel free to ask me a question.

Header image by Kampus Production/

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