Human Resources

Are You Asking the Right Questions?

24 August 2023



I recently read how Toy Story came about because early computer animation made everything look plastic-like. While others asked how to improve the technology, the Pixar team posed a different question. What subject matter lent itself to the medium as it was? 

Asking the right questions is a critical skill for leaders to develop. Better questions lead to deeper insights and expose new possibilities. Here’s what I advise clients. 


1. Develop a Curious Mindset 

A curious mindset involves being open to new ideas, perspectives and experiences. Cultivate yours by seeking out new experiences, books, and people. Challenge your assumptions and expose yourself to different ideas. Experiment with new ways of doing things and learn from the results. 

2. Overcome the Fear of Vulnerability 

Don’t avoid asking questions that expose your lack of expertise. Acknowledging you don’t know everything can help build trust and credibility. View questions as a way to grow, not a weakness. And model vulnerability by sharing your own challenges. It will help to foster a culture of openness and honesty.  

3. Trust the Process 

Focus on the process rather than the outcome. Instead of worrying about whether your questions are perfect, focus on the act of questioning itself. Embrace the learning opportunity even if your questions don’t lead to the answers you were expecting. 

4. Proactively Manage Time Constraints 

Don’t be pressured to bypass meaningful dialogue to keep up with the pace of business. Instead, prioritize questioning daily by incorporating it into existing processes. Dedicate time for team meetings or one-on-one conversations. Over time, you’ll create a culture that values curiosity and learning. 

5. Ensure Psychological Safety 

People won’t share their thoughts if they don’t trust their leaders. Never force or intimidate people into participating in dialogue. Demonstrate empathy rather than judgement so people feel safe sharing diverse ideas and perspectives. And provide feedback and recognition for their contributions.  

6. Practice Mindfulness and Reflection 

Be mindful during conversations by focusing on active listening. This means fully engaging with the person you are speaking with. Pay attention to their body language and tone of voice, and ask follow-up questions. Finally, reflect on the conversation and your questions, identifying areas for improvement. 

7. Seek Feedback and Continuous Improvement 

Ask team members to evaluate your questioning skills. Encourage them to be honest and specific. Then, apply the insights to your future questioning strategies. And take advantage of any learning opportunities on effective communication. Maybe find a mentor who can provide guidance and support.