The hard part about asking open questions

Easy: Ask your team “closed” questions. Closed questions can be answered with a yes or a no (or a grunt), don’t provide much insight, and often lead the questionee in a certain direction. “We are going to have that report done by Friday, right?” Oh yes ma’am! 

Hard: Ask your team “open” questions. Open questions are those you don’t already know the answer to, usually provide the most insight, and could go in a number of directions. “What do you think were the big takeaways from that client meeting?” [Uh oh, now I have to think…]

Coming up with the questions is not the differentiator between “easy” and “hard.” The hard part is that the answers to open questions require you to listen, not just check off the mental yes or no box. The hard part is that you might have to change your mind based on the what you are hearing. The hard part is embracing the unknown answers to open questions day after day. 

The hard part… Using questions for their intended purpose instead of using them as an indirect way to communicate what you really want. 

Less directing, more conversat-ing.

by Jonathan Wilson

Jonathan is the Head Coach at Sandcastle Company, a Seattle-based leadership training organization. His first book, Future Leader: Rebooting Leadership to Win the Millennial and Tech Future [link], is now available. Jonathan regularly writes and speaks about The New Leader Way, leadership resilience, and the future of work. He has years of leadership experience in both the public and private sectors, a master's degree from Seattle University, and professional coach training from the University of Miami.

Filed under: Leadership

Published on September 24, 2019

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