Asking Effective Questions

When you really want to inspire change and growth in others, what kinds of questions do you ask them? Ones that require reflection and thought, or those that are more of the yes/no variety?

The management strategy of asking more participatory questions reminds me of a certain Calvin and Hobbes cartoon. Calvin has—not surprisingly—got himself into a bit of a scrape and his mom sits him down to set him straight. In this four-panel strip, however, we never hear what she’s saying, only Calvin’s internal monologue as he’s being lectured. Toward the end, Calvin notices cues that the talk is wrapping up, so he starts nodding his head in agreement in an attempt to show his mom he was listening all along.

Now, Calvin’s mom has her work cut out for her, and I can’t blame her for trying to coax a sense of understanding out of her mischievous son.  And even though it’s just a cartoon, it’s very pertinent to the real world.

Imagine how much more productive your team could be if instead of only listening in a passive state, their brains were forced to take action? That’s what questions do.  Especially questions that require a bit of thought to answer, not just a quick “yes” or “no.”

Thoughtful questions inspire, motivate, and are an effective way to inspire change in the people you lead.


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