Would You Like to Learn to “Lead With Questions” in 30 Seconds?

Originally posted in CareersInGovernment.com 

Whenever I am facilitating a “Leading With Questions” seminar/webinar I ask, “Who here would like to learn to ‘Lead With Questions’ in 30 seconds?”

Almost every hand goes up! 

The reason I ask this question is that I always sense from each audience that almost everyone would like to learn to “Lead With Questions” but most imagine that it will require getting a Masters Degree in Questionology!   Nice idea – but like becoming a brain surgeon – not likely to happen!

Next – I select one of the participants to see if it is possible to learn to “Lead With Questions” in 30 seconds.

I always tell the person I select that I selected her/him because I sense they have a photographic memory!  (They always smile and by the expression on their face communicate that they don’t think that they have a  photographic memory.)  I share that all they will have to do to learn to “Lead With Questions” is to memorize my “4 Most Favorite Questions.”

I ask them if they are ready?  They always say yes or nod that they are.

I then ask someone to be our Timekeeper to see if I can really teach someone to “Lead With Questions” in 30 seconds.

With Timekeeper ready I share my “4 Most Favorite Questions”:

What do you think?

What else?

What else?

What else?

I then ask if they have them memorized?   They always do!  I then ask them to share them with the group.  And they always accurately share:

What do you think?

What else?

What else?

What else?

Next I check with Timekeeper to ask if we got this done within 30 seconds?   Timekeeper always reports back, “Yes!” and they often share the exact number of seconds – was 20-25 seconds!

Now at this point, some in the audience look just a little bit skeptical – like you can’t ask someone “What do you think?  What else? What else? What else?”

So I share that I know what some of them are thinking!  I share that this is a conversation.  When you ask the first question, “What do you think about (some opportunity or issue or challenge?” they will answer and when they pause you can say, “Wow this is really good – what else?”  And they will give you more!  And when they pause again you can say “I am taking notes.  Please continue.  What else?” and they will give you more!  And when they pause you can say – “Please continue – this is really good – What else?”

When we are asked “What do you think about (some opportunity or issue or challenge)?” we all instinctively roll out a safe answer to see how it is treated.  Should someone respond with, “That’s dumb!  Everyone knows that!”  We are then sorry we answered at all!  But if the person who asks us says, “Wow This is really good – what else?” – we will then feel safer knowing they like what we shared and we will say more!  And when they ask again, “What else?” we think, “Wow – they think what I have shared is really wise” and we will say more!

I have found it really is when we ask the 3rd or 4th question that we get to their “Gold Nugget” – their very best thought!

Confession:  I have also realized that in the past – even when I did ask someone, “What do you think about (some opportunity or issue or challenge)?” – that when they paused, I always moved on – never once asking even one “What else?”   Looking back I was like the proverbial Gold Miner who stopped mining 6 inches from the Gold Vein!  So close – but no Gold!

Now if you are a leader who only leads by telling – you can begin to “Lead With Questions” when in your next meeting – one on one with one of your staff or in a meeting with all your staff by simply asking her/him/them:

What do you think?

What else?

What else?

What else?

And then of course listening carefully to their answers!

Now a question for you:  How have you felt anytime you have had a leader/director/supervisor ask you, “What do you think we should do about (some opportunity or issue or challenge)?”

Did you feel: Valued? Appreciated? She/he thinks I am Wise?  She/he thinks I have something to Contribute?

Would I be correct to assume that you felt some of all those things?

Without your leader/director/supervisor saying out loud that they Valued You or Appreciated You or That she/he thought you were wise or that you had something to contribute – just asking you “What do you think?” communicated all of that!

So if that is how you have felt when your leader has asked you “What do you think?” how will those reporting to you feel when you ask them, “What do you think?”   Of course the same!

Henry David Thoreau shared:

“The greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when one asked me what I thought and attended to my answer!”

Bob Tiede


Bob has been on the staff of Cru for 52 years. He currently serves on the U.S. Leadership Development Team and is passionate about seeing leaders grow and multiply their effectiveness. Bob and his wife, Sherry, live in Plano, TX and are blessed with 4 incredible children and 8 remarkable grandchildren.


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