The right question, asked in the right way at the right time can challenge (in a good way) someone’s perception and thinking, and change their beliefs and behaviours. Asking the right question at the right time can be a great tool to help your staff and colleagues.
Asking something as simple as ‘what do you think?’ can help to:
Make them feel trusted and valued
Build their self-esteem
Build a good working relationship with them
Build their motivation and commitment
If that is followed up with ‘what else do you think?’ then you have the potential to help them:
Think more profoundly
Think things through
Think outside the box
Challenge accepted ways of thinking and doing
These questions are powerful because they have some key attributes.
They are ‘open’ – they invite or push someone to think, to give a detailed answer (as opposed to ‘closed’ questions that require only a yes or no answer).
They are very concise – if you ask a long question the intent can easily get lost, if you ask a multiple question (requiring several answers) you’ll probably only get an answer to the last part.
If you build your own view into the question it can direct or inhibit the answer – asking ‘what do you think?’ is better than saying ‘I think this, what do you think?’
These powerful questions very often start with ‘what’ or ‘how’ – ‘what can we do?’, ‘what will happen?’, ‘how can that be achieved?’, ‘how will you tackle that?’ Be careful of ‘why’ questions, they can sound slightly threatening.
By the way, don’t fear sounding naive when you ask question like this – your brevity and lack of expressed opinion are partly what gives these questions such power.
And, if you suspend your own beliefs and opinions for a moment, you never know, you might get an answer that changes your life too.