I’ve written before on the Art of Asking Questions, but I tripped across the concept of the Questions to Comments ratio somewhere in my travels recently, and I really like it. (I would love to give someone attribution if I could recall who it was that offered up this powerful behavioral image.)
Let’s face it, many leaders are expert talkers, and they like to showcase their expertise at every possible opportunity, much to the dismay and detriment of their team members.
Effective leaders understand that the respectful use of questioning is a powerful performance enhancement tool in the workplace. A leader’s questions challenge individuals and teams to look at issues from all angles and they help uncover ideas or suggestions that require a bit more baking.
The strategist understands that her role is all about finding the right questions to answer. The leader leverages questions to understand whether the issues have been thoroughly vetted and the dots connected between the ideas, the execution and the potential impact points for the business, customers and stakeholders.
Like Socrates, the effective questioner is helping individuals and the group explore the implications of different positions as part of the process of improving overall group knowledge. I had a manager early in my career that ended every project planning discussion with the question, “Have you thought of everything?” That annoying question served as a constant reminder for me to look at situations from every possible perspective, especially that of the customer.
So, what’s your Questions to Comments ratio? If it’s not more than 1:1 (considerably more!) you need to quit talking and start thinking more about the right questions to be asking your associates. Make a conscious effort today to start moving your Q:C ratio in the right direction. You might just be surprised at how much more effective you are as a questioner than a preacher.