In both my professional and academic life, I often interview people. No matter what the topic, my favorite reply is “That’s a good question. I hadn’t thought of it before.” When someone says that, I know we will have a creative dialogue.
I recently conducted a seminar on leading project teams. We discussed the ability to ask questions as an essential leadership tool. At first glance a question might not seem like a tool for leading project teams, but it can be very powerful. As leaders, the sort of questions we ask will frame the direction that our projects take. They drive the sort of data that is collected, the kind of outcomes that are created, and the people that are included along the way.
When you lead others, consider using the following types of questions. They will help you look at things from a variety of viewpoints, and ultimately be more effective.
1. Framing questions help identify the purpose of the conversation and help the group engage in discussion.
- “If we were to implement this solution by next month, what information would we need?”
- “What kind of solutions have you tried so far?”
2. Exploration questions are used to open new viewpoints, uncover layers of cause and effect, and help people think through problems more deeply.
- “What is stopping us from moving forward?”
- “What is the root cause of this problem?”
- “What resources haven’t we used?”
3. Affective questions invite participants to share feelings and reactions. They are about the “heart” issues rather than the “mind” issues.
- “How does this solution make you feel?”
- “What makes students feel so strongly about this issue?”
4. Reflective questions help the group go deeper into an issue.
- “Why do you think this keeps happening?”
- “If this problem was resolved to everyone’s satisfaction, what would that look like?”
What is something you can ask so your team will say, “That’s a good question. We haven’t thought of it that way before”?
Dee Anne Bonebright