When everyone is continually looking to you for the answers, you may not think to stop and ask questions.  But strong leaders ask as many, if not more questions than they give answers to.

Leaders don’t need to have all the answers; after all, in the words of Steve Jobs, “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”

If you are new to asking questions or need to sharpen your skills, here are a few different question-and-answer scenarios to help you learn more, dig deeper, spark creativity and create an open work environment.

Q&A 101

Be open and curious.

Only ask questions if you are curious about the answer. Also, be open to new perspectives and ideas.

Ask open-ended questions.

Use open-ended questions when you need to share a variety of ideas to build and expand on them. For example:

  • Why did that happen?
  • How would you handle this situation?
  • How can we solve this issue?
  • What are the first steps we should take?

Ask probing questions.

Use a mix of open-ended and closed-ended questions to find out a specific answer. Often you will need to ask ‘WHY’ multiple times to get to the root cause of a problem.

  • When were you aware of the problem?
  • What was the problem?
  • Who told you about the problem?
  • Who else did you get involved?
  • What was the solution?
  • Who suggested the solution?

If this happened today, knowing what you know now, how would you keep this problem from occurring again?

Ask funneling questions.

Start with broad questions, and then slowly ask more specific questions.

Funneling is often used in job interviews to learn more about a candidates experience or any situation where you want to learn more information while making the person you are talking with feel at ease by recalling events within an easy-to-reference scenario.

Common funneling questioning:

  • Tell me about your career, let’s start chronologically.
  • What programming languages do you know?
  • Which programming languages do you currently code in?
  • What was your last C++ coding project?
  • What was your role in the project?

Know when to be quiet!

Perhaps the hardest skill to learn in question asking is listening. And, not listening while forming your response in your head, but rather listening to learn the answer.

Don’t be afraid of a pause in conversation.

Pausing allows people time to think and reflect. When you are having an in-person conversation, this is a great technique to employ. However, the ‘pause’ gets very tricky on phone conversations, as you can’t see someone’s thought process evolving, and often the pause leads to an uncomfortable silence that one party feels forced to fill.

Leadership Takes Continuous Learning

Leading a team or leading a company is a constant evolution of learning new techniques and best practices to both improve your skills and the talent you surround yourself with. As you move through your career, keep the Jarvi Group top of mind when you need to surround yourself with top talent.

Jarvi Group

© Jarvi Group

1350 Scribner Ave NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49504


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