Judith Ross on How to Ask Better Questions
Although providing employees with answers to their problems often may be the most efficient way to get things done, the short-term gain is overshadowed by long-term costs. By taking the expedient route, you impede direct reports’ development, cheat yourself of access to some potentially fresh and powerful ideas, and place an undue burden on your own shoulders. When faced with an employee’s problem, you can respond in a much more value-adding way: by asking the right questions, help her find the best solution herself. We aren’t talking about asking just any questions but, rather, employing questions that inspire people to think in new ways, expand their range of vision, and enable them to contribute more to the organization. Questions packing this kind of punch are usually open-ended — they’re not looking for a specific answer. Often beginning with “Why,” “How,” or “What do you think about…,” they are questions that set the stage for subordinates to discover their own solutions, increasing their competence, their confidence, and their ownership of results.
Personally, thanks to some excellent feedback over the years, I’ve subscribed to the 5WH line of questioning when trying to get information: