Do You Ask Your People The Right Questions?

A curious mindset is the best mindset to have, as opposed to a certain mindset. When you are curious, you are constantly learning. When you are certain, you can’t go anywhere else. Curiosity over certainty, any day of the week.

When a highly effective leader asks questions, they either want to learn something new for themselves, or they want to inspire their team to think differently and for themselves. So, when you go back to your team and you begin asking questions, always have those two things in mind.

You are not telling anybody what to do, you either want to learn, or you want to inspire self-thinking.

1. The Types Of Questions Highly Effective Leaders Ask

How do you do that? You may be asking. If you are seeking to learn new knowledge from your team then ask “why?” If you want to help your team to think differently and for themselves, then ask “how?”

Highly effective leaders are very skilled at asking these types of questions, and they are very deliberate with this technique. They either have a goal to learn, or a goal to help.

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When asking the question of “how?” this can be very powerful when a new change is being implemented either within your team, or within the organisation. Asking “how?” enables you to be proactive, and embrace the change. Rather than reactive, and fear the change.

Most are reactive when it comes to change, so being proactive will put you and your team in the minority. However, it will put you and your team in a better position, and people will start to take notice. Especially your immediate senior leaders, and other senior leaders within your organisation.

2. How Do You React To Change?

As the leader of your team, reacting negatively to change, and fearing change will influence your team to react and behave in the same way. So you are negatively influencing, rather than positively influencing. This is something you need to avoid.

Leaders who react negatively to change are looking for the cons of the change, and don’t even consider the pros. Even if the pros outweigh the cons, a leader who fears change will still focus on the cons. When leaders behave in this way, they and their team will become a victim, rather than the recipient of change.

When you become the victim of any change, it will feel that the change is happening to you, rather than for you. When change happens to you, you will not have any control over the change, and neither will the team. Your team will feel like they have been manipulated, and if you cannot show leadership then this will create distrust.

If you are not thinking positively about this new change, then your negativity will flow into other aspects of your work.

Highly effective leaders embrace change, and they are proactive to change rather than reactive. When a highly effective leader embraces change, they are also embracing the responsibility that comes with it. By embracing, and accepting the responsibility, that is how they are proactive to the change.

Usually, when a new change is being brought in, people ask the obvious question of, “What is happening?” However, a highly effective leader’s first question to a new change begins with “How?” When asking “How?” you are seeking the solution from the very beginning, which is a lot more powerful than asking “What?”

Many times in my career, when a new change is about to come into the organisation, you always hear the same questions from the negative people. Whether they are the leaders, or the team, they are always the same as the following:

  • What benefit am I going to get out of this change?
  • What benefit is our team going to get out of this change?
  • What help am I going to get with this change?
  • What help is my team going to get with this change?
  • Who is going to make this change happen?
  • Will I need to do anything to make this change happen?
  • Will my team need to do anything to make this change happen?

These types of questions are a reaction to a new change, and is a very negative response.

When a highly effective leader and their team embrace a new change, they turn the questions around, and will ask the following:

  • How can I benefit this change?
  • How can my team benefit this change?
  • How can I help others benefit with this change?
  • How can my team help others benefit with this change?
  • How can I help make this change happen?
  • How can my team help make this change happen?

As you can see, just putting the word “How?” at the beginning of the questions, gives a whole different perspective on yours and your team’s way of thinking. It completely changes your way of thinking from negative and reactive, to positive and proactive.

A new change usually means a different way of being and behaving. So, we must accept the responsibility that comes with this new way of being.

3. Turning Questions Around

Leveraging the question of “How can I?” or “How can we?” rather than, “Can I?” or “Can we?” is how highly effective leaders embrace and accept the responsibility, and lead themselves and their team through positive change.

Highly effective leaders have no doubt that the change they are leading is the right thing to do.

When a low performing leader asks the question, “Can I?” they are doubting themselves already, and being negative. There is no substance to the question “Can I?” so you don’t know whether you can or you can’t.

However, when a highly effective leader asks, “How can I?” they are making a commitment, and have made the decision that they can make this change happen, no matter what.

When this commitment is made, the only thinking you will do will be in a positive direction, and if you come up against any obstacles, you will find the solution to remove them. The word “How?” puts you and your team on the right path.

When you are thinking positively about any type of change, whether that be in work or at home, you will always find a solution. There may be more than one solution, but you will think of them all and decide on the best one. Just by using the word how. Teach your team to do the same thing, and they will start thinking in this way too.

Low performing leaders will always be the victim to change, and because they play the victim they will feel stuck. It is like they are stuck with the change, instead of embracing the change.

4. How A Highly Effective Leader Reacts To Change

When a highly effective leader embraces the change, they will feel unstuck and creative. They see the change as a benefit for all, and do everything they can to ensure the change is seen through to the end.

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When it comes to a new change being brought in for your team, department or organisation, then ask yourself the “How can I?” and “How can we?” questions above. See for yourself how different you will be thinking, and how different you feel. You will feel a lot more positive and accepting of the new change.

Then, once you have asked yourself, and the team has asked themselves these positive questions, ensure you take positive action. Don’t just ask the questions and do nothing. Take positive action and see what happens.

You and your team will start to devise solutions for obstacles, rather than just coming up with obstacles that you don’t do anything about. Train your team to put “How?” in front of “Can I?” and feel the difference from being reactive to proactive.

To get buy-in, you will get further by asking questions. If you make a statement then there is nowhere to explore.

I welcome hearing how this post has influenced the way you think, the way you lead, or the results you have achieved because of what you’ve learned in it. Please feel free to share your thoughts with me by commenting below.

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All the best,

Tom (Lead, Grow, Influence)

18 thoughts on “Do You Ask Your People The Right Questions?

  1. Hi, thank you for the post. You have some really great tips. It’s definitely a way to remove the fear and anxiety when change is coming. I’ll be sure to use the “How” methods you mentioned. Thanks again for such a great article.

    1. Hi Jamie,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m really pleased you found the article helpful.

      If you need any help with the “How” tips when you eventually put them in to action, then please don’t hesitate to contact me.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  2. This is a wonderful article, especially in the critical and unusual times we are in currently. I am a manager of a small team, and have found much resistance to change over the last month. a lot of this has come from being stuck in their ways of doing things. Much resistance came from my team, about the new rules and duties we had to follow due to COVID-19., As you suggest, leading with a positive mindset from the front, really helps the team to adapt. You will often find your employees mirror your own attitudes and behaviours. Thank you for a great article and I look forward to following your future posts.

    1. Hi Sara,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m really pleased you found it valuable.

      I totally understand that your team will be resistant to change at the moment, especially due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We just need to do our best to keep positive as you have stated.

      If you need any help or advice on how to help your team become less resistant then do not hesitate to contact me.

      All the best,

      Tom

  3. This is a very excellent strategy that you have shared. How is a powerful word that changes everything in a very positive way. The more positive you are the more you all will Achieve, I totally believe that.
    Thank you for this brilliant advice, I’m very sure it will benefit many.

    1. Hi Lisa,

      Thank you for your comment. Really pleased you found the article valuable.

      How certainly is a powerful word and can change things in a positive way, you are absolutely right. It’s great that you believe in positivity, especially during these difficult times. Please do your best to remain positive and if you need any help or further advice then please don’t hesitate to contact me.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  4. I remember listening to one of Tony Robbins’s speeches where he said that we, as humans have a few basic needs. Among them, we need both certainty and uncertainty in our lives, and we need a healthy balance of both. He said that certainty helps us to feel secure, and uncertainty makes us grow. Now, when I add your article to this, I can see it even further. Thanks a lot for sharing this!

    1. Hi Ivan,

      Thank you for returning and for your kind words. It feels great that you have added my article to Tony Robbins’s speech, thank you for that.

      I’m so pleased that you found the article valuable.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

    1. Hi Vlad,

      Thank you for your comment and thank you for returning. I really do appreciate your engagement.

      I’m really pleased that you found the article valuable. Robert Kiyosaki is great and a world famous influencer, it’s great that I reminded you of his work.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  5. You really provided some awesome questions that I would never think of myself, and I am sure this will get more of your readers thinking about adding many of the questions you shared to start asking people.

    Jeff

    1. Hi Jeff,

      Thank you for your comment and thanks for returning. I’m really pleased you found the article valuable.

      Keep returning, keep leading and keep engaging.

      All the best,

      Tom

  6. Hi Tom

    Many thanks for this. I guess it’s human nature that so many people have almost a ‘what’s in it for me’ attitude to everything in life. I very much like the re-framing of questions with ‘How can’ as it naturally puts a much more empowering slant on the question.

    In my workplace, a small change was made in language that made a big difference. The use of the word ‘they’ was banned. So instead of ‘why to they insist we do it this way’ became ‘why do we insist on doing it this way’ which led to suggestions of better ways that things could be done in the organisation rather than resistance to some faceless entity!

    I look forward to reading more of your posts.

    Kind regards,

    Jean

    1. Hi Jean,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m really happy that you found it helpful.

      It’s great that your organisation changed the language from “they” to “we”. It makes it feel like we are all in this together and we are all one team. Well done for your organisation in doing that.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  7. Hi Tom,

    I completely agree. A curious mindset is the best mindset.

    Employers are often threatened by high performing employees if they are insecure.

    But Richard Branson has been quoted as saying, “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.”.

    Wise man.

    Thank you for your inspiring look at leadership. It’s a subtle and elusive thing.

    Sadly, I have not seen many good leaders in my day, and have met many that really need to be reading your material.

    Desperately.

    Thanks for all of your hard work, Tom.

    Michael

    1. Hi Michael,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m so pleased that you found the article valuable.

      It’s a shame that you have worked with a lot of leaders who need to develop themselves but don’t seem to be. I have worked with many leaders like this too which is why I started this site. Hopefully I can help these leaders.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  8. Great post and tips! It’s amazing how just rephrasing the question can make such a difference in how you look at change. It’s hard to embrace change sometimes, when you get set in your ways or comfortable with the way things are. But, if change can add something of value, it’s worth accepting. Good things to think about. Thanks!

    1. Hi Carla,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m so happy that you found the article helpful.

      Rephrasing one word of a question can make such a difference, you are right. We just need to do it more often and look within ourselves when doing it.

      A lot of people fear change, I was one of these people because I was set in my ways and thought “old school”. But, as you say, if it adds value then it is totally worth doing.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

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