Do you lead by asking questions? If you’re in leadership and want your direct reports to do more than follow your lead, one of the most powerful tools you possess is questions. If you want them to participate passionately, don’t tell them — ASK them. For much of the 20th century and into the 21st, management in America has often been about commanding, not leading. Using questions to lead your subordinates is nothing new. The Greek philosopher Socrates (470-399 BC) taught by asking questions, leading the student to a desired end or new enlightenment.

“A Socratic seminar is not a debate. This activity aims to have participants work together to construct meaning and arrive at an answer, not for one student or group to “win the argument”. This approach is based on the belief that participants seek and gain deeper understanding of concepts in the text through thoughtful dialogue rather than memorizing information that has been provided for them.” — Socratic Method

How and Why to Lead by Asking Questions

Why Lead With Questions?

  • The most effective team “buy-in” method for any project is to make it the team’s plan. By asking questions and sharing thoughts, plans that transcend any individual’s ideas or goals can be formed, thus becoming the team’s vision. It becomes more than an order from management. It’s a team plan.
  • The team may better understand how to improve performance or production. If it affects them directly, they probably have a more current and complete understanding than you. Listen and learn.
  • Don’t you want to know what your team is thinking? Especially if you’re not thrilled about the thought process. If you know what’s on your team’s mind, you can help direct them through questions.

How to Ask Effective Questions

  • If you want to know what someone thinks or you want them to think for themselves, use open-ended questions. Open-ended questions begin with what, why, and how and call for thoughtful responses.
  • Don’t ask leading questions, like, “You agree, don’t you?” or choice of positives, such as, “Do you want to begin at 7:00 or 7:30?” or closed-ended yes or no questions, like, “Do you know what to do?” These kinds of questions will not engage your team.

What kind of manager do you want to be? Leading subordinates through questions and gathering their input is team building. Their ideas don’t always have to be implemented, but they should be heard. If you use questions to find out what they know, think, and believe, you’ll be rewarded with new ideas, improved teamwork, and camaraderie.

How Can I Help You? 

I like to help people and organizations, but I have three criteria I consider before taking an assignment – I believe in what the organization stands for, I know I can help, and it looks like fun. If you have any questions, Contact Me. 

So, does your business have a management training plan? Because if not, many organizations, large and small, use my book, The New Manager’s Workbook, a crash course in effective management, as the basis for their leadership development program. Check it out. It might help you stop putting off what you want to do.

If you enjoyed this post you might also like How to ask Questions for Understanding.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay