A good question is never answered. It is not a bolt to be tightened into place but a seed to be planted and to bear more seed toward the hope of greening the landscape of ideas

John Ciardi

Educators ask great questions.

It’s a muscle that we’ve been building for years in our classrooms in order to support our students to create connections, challenge assumptions and grow.

As leaders, this is a skill to hold onto.

Yes, there are times when an answer is required, but if you take a step back, are you asking enough questions?

Afterall, you know that a well timed, open, concise question creates the conditions for better thinking.

In his article ‘Good Leadership Is About Asking Good Questions,’ John Hagel highlights some of the benefits to organisations of asking more questions:

  • You have access to greater wisdom;
  • You are acknowledging the essential value of diversity of thought;
  • You create trust because you know that you don’t have all the answers. If you convey that you do, then you are either clueless, lying or living in an alternate reality;
  • You are modelling a learning culture;
  • You have a sense of ambition for the organisation to do better;
  • When people come together and collaborate towards finding a solution, it reduces fear and anxiety;
  • By expressing vulnerability and asking for help, you give permission for others to do the same. This builds trust and connection which serves to reduces mistakes and underperformance.

Here are some questions which might open up the thinking in your organisation. Some seeds to plant. What would you add?

  • What do we believe?
  • How could we be wrong?
  • What are we assuming?
  • What is our greatest hope for the outcome of this project?
  • What are our greatest strengths?
  • What are our greatest fears?
  • What’s working?
  • What’s not working?
  • Within this disruption, what are the opportunities?
  • Where are we fulfilling our values?
  • Where are we falling short of our values?
  • How can we be of greater service?

According to a survey, appearing foolish is one of the top five fears of CEOs and senior managers. Perhaps this fear gets in the way of asking questions?

However, consider this re-frame. The ‘Fool,’ the Shakespearean archetype, has the courage to ask questions that elevate the truth and dispel complacency.

Leaders with courage and ambition are able to let go of their fears of not having all the answers, and lean into asking better questions.