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Better Questions Make You A Better Leader

Written by: Melissa Dawn, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

Asking the right kind of questions, in the right way, brings out the best in others, and you.


Many leaders spend so much time in problem-solving or rescuer mode that they end each day feeling drained and burnout. Of course, we want to solve problems, but not at the expense of our own well being AND the growth of the people we lead.

You see, when you are constantly ready to jump in, you drain your own energy and don’t allow yourself space to work on your own goals. You also miss opportunities to cultivate creativity and strong problem-solving skills in the people you lead.


Questions are the Answer


Asking questions empowers people to get curious, tap into their creativity, and step into ownership of their contribution.


When people come up with answers themselves (which they often do) it builds their confidence, gives them a sense of autonomy and capability, and makes them feel valued for their contribution. All of this increases their engagement, motivation and overall satisfaction at work, which spurs the entire organization forward.


Creation is how we grow as individuals, teams and organizations. A strong leader knows, even when they can see a solution, that they gain more from opening themselves up to other perspectives, and that actively encouraging the growth of others is the highest priority with the greater long term payoff.


Making Space for Answers


The thing about questions is that people need to feel safe giving honest answers and even “thinking out loud”. This means it’s on those of us in leadership roles to create a safe space for people to be heard, validated, and met with curiosity, not judgement.


Of course, you can’t control how others feel, but you can take full responsibility for how you show up. That will go a long way towards creating a safe space.


Truly listening – openly and free of judgement – to whatever comes up, is how you begin to create this space. This may demand a significant mindset shift. One that takes a curiosity approach and assumes others are naturally creative, resourceful and invested in bringing their best selves to the table.


Solutions from your perspective may not be right for them, and they may be able to come up with something even better, if given the space. At times, you may have greater experience or knowledge. Even then, your role is to help people develop their own experience and knowledge.


If you have the answer, keep it in. It’s not going anywhere, and you risk nothing by hearing someone else first. Your ideas are valid (just like theirs) AND your priority is to hold space for others to work their creative muscles.


What Makes a Question Powerful?


Questions themselves can be quite simple. Something like, “What are you experiencing?” or “What would you say is most important?”


The key is how you ask. Your curiosity, compassion and “us together” mindset must be genuine. That may mean taking an honest look at how you approach conversations in general, and doing some work to develop your inner leader.


How to Form Your Questions


Aim for specific and open-ended.

  • Specific: If you ask, “How’s the project going?” Most people will reply “Fine” almost reflexively. Getting specific encourages them to pause and really consider their response. An example would be, “I notice we’re doing XYZ in this project. We don’t have much experience with that. What do you think about it?”

  • Open-ended: Open-ended questions can’t be answered with a simple yes or no. They require thought and creativity, and open up conversations. Examples would be, “What possibilities do you see?” or “What would your best case scenario be?”


Examples of specific and open-ended questions:

  • What do you truly want?

  • What’s important to you about this?

  • What does that look like from your perspective?

  • How are you feeling about this?

  • What's the next step?

  • What else is possible?

  • What's right about this?

  • What are your concerns?

  • What’s holding you back?

  • Tell me more?

  • What do you need most right now?

  • What is the worst case scenario? What if that happens?

  • How can you see us growing from here?

  • What is your ideal outcome?

  • What are you choosing/not choosing?

  • What is your experience of this?

  • What are the facts, as you know them?

  • Imagine you say yes or no. What next?


Becoming a Strong Question-Asker


When leaders embrace their own growth alongside the growth of those they lead, magic happens.


Cultivating an environment where people feel safe speaking openly is no easy feat. It demands kindness towards yourself first, and establishing healthy habits to stay grounded and connected.


If you have inner struggles or unhealed wounds that you’re trying to push aside, you’re more vulnerable to being triggered by circumstances around you. When you put your own self-acceptance and care first, you develop the inner strength, resilience and insight to better serve others.


For me, a conscious morning routine and regular connection with nature are powerful habits:

  • Morning routine: Connecting within first thing in the morning empowers you to “set the dial” for how you will show up before anything else can influence you.

  • Nature: Nature keeps you tuned into your role in the Universe and the bigger picture in your life. It guides you to lean into certainty even when chaos surrounds you.


Be intentional, purposeful and habitual in caring for yourself first. You may be surprised to find that asking questions and holding safe space starts to feel a lot more natural.


Taking it Further


Asking questions and holding space are powerful leadership skills that can extend to your personal relationships as well. I have experienced wonderful shifts in the – relationships that are most important to me, simply by getting curious and resisting the urge to “rescue”.


You can also use this technique with yourself. Whenever you feel stuck, ask yourself, “What else is possible?” And of course, leave out the judgement. All answers are valid and welcome.


Follow Melissa on her Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin, and visit her website for more information.


 

Melissa Dawn, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Melissa Dawn is a renowned speaker, author, coach, and founder of CEO of Your Life. She is a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach (CPCC), a Professional Certified Coach (PCC), a Certified Team Performance Coach (CTPC) and Conscious Coach, Certified Master Practitioner of Energy Medicine with The Four Winds, and holds a Bachelor of Commerce. She is also the bestselling author of I Attract What I Am: Transform Failure into an Orgasmically Joyful Life and Business and was named one of Hubspot’s Best Coaching Services worldwide for 2019, 2020, and 2021.


Melissa guides others to drop their masks, reconnect with their core selves and put themselves firmly in the CEO seat of their own lives. She believes that what makes us different is how we bring the greatest value to the world and ourselves.

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