Skip to main content

7 Powerful Questions Leaders Should Use Often

Questions are a powerful tool for every leader. The greatest leaders I know ask lots of questions.

Whenever I consult with leaders, one of the first things I do is analyze what questions the leader is asking. You only get answers to questions you ask. The better the questions – the better the answers.

Questions can challenge, encourage discussion, and discover better ways of doing things. Plus, questions allow other people to have an opinion – which creates trust and adds huge value to organizational health.

I’ve learned people often have opinions they won’t share until they are given a direct invitation. I keep my door open most of the time, but it doesn’t guarantee people will share what’s on their mind. The forum has to be created most of the time.

7 powerful questions leaders should use often:

What is one thing about how we function that you think changing would improve us as a team?

This is a practical question which, in my experience, people enjoy answering. It can make their life better. They may have thoughts on needing more meetings – or less meetings – or better meetings. That could be valuable insight you don’t see. Even if they’ve never thought about this question it opens their mind to ways to improve. Who doesn’t need that?

Will you help me?

Everyone wants to be wanted. They want their input to be needed. I’m not talking about dumping on people, but when a leader asks this question and genuinely invites the team into the decision-making process they feel empowered.

How can I help you/What can I do to make things better for you?

Knowing a leader is willing to help is huge. Even if they don’t need your help they appreciate knowing they are truly part of a team. Plus, the leader is a team player.

I have used this question to find out how I can help people in their next career step outside the organization.

Do you understand what I’m saying/asking you to do?

This is a valuable follow up question, especially when you’ve delegated a task or given someone a responsibility. Because, again, they may not ask if you don’t.

Not asking this question can lead to unnecessary confusion, miscommunication and frustration.

Do you have what you need to complete the task?

Giving any assignment without asking this question leaves many people unprepared and doomed for failure. Good leaders make sure the team has adequate resources to do their work.

What do you think we should do/What would you do if you were in my shoes?

This question is helpful, for example, whenever there is a problem to be solved which has never been addressed before. Most likely, when the question is answered it will impact others on the team. Inviting people to help solve the issue or come to a conclusion about it gives them ownership in the solution.

Plus, I’ve learned many times people have an idea but they haven’t felt the platform to share it yet.

What’s next for us/for you/for your area of responsibility?

This is a great brainstorming question. It forces people to dialogue about creating something new or developing something existing. It fuels momentum.

This should be noted – these questions are most helpful on healthy teams and with healthy team members. If you have an overly negative team member, for example, you may not get the answers you need. May with that person you ask the “How can I help you?” one. (Even if that needs to be transitioning to another place where they can be happy.)

What I would also say, however, is questions can be a way to improve the health on a team. Sometimes they can even improve an unhealthy team member. It’s all in picking the right questions. And asking them.

Finally, after you ask the question stop talking and listen.

Check out my leadership podcast where we discuss issues of leadership in a practical way. Plus, check out the other Lifeway Leadership Podcasts.

Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

More posts by Ron Edmondson

Join the discussion One Comment