You will become a better communicator and leader when you begin asking better questions. And building this skill will serve you in any area of your life. That makes asking better questions a meta-skill – something that helps in many ways and in most parts of our life. In studying those (leaders and otherwise) who are the best at asking questions, I found they utilize five habits, mindsets, and skills. Chances are, at least one of these will help you begin asking better questions right away.
While that is good news, I have even better news. Remembering these five skills is simple – they start with the letters that spell the word CHAIR. Hence, the CHAIR Model for asking better questions.
Being curious makes us better learners. After all, the world’s best question askers, at least in terms of persistence and frequency, are kids. And it is no coincidence that they are also the most proficient learners. They ask because they want to know. When we are curious, we are naturally more inclined to ask more questions. So, if asking better questions is your goal, look for things that pique your curiosity. As a leader, that might include being more curious about someone’s experience, perspective, or opinion. When we ask people about these things, we build trust with them as well as learn something valuable.
When we think we know something (or think we should), we seldom ask about it – why would we? When we let go of our need or the expectation to have all the answers, we are more willing to ask. Be humble enough to know you don’t have all the information and be okay with that. Asking better questions will help you gain the needed information.
Often, timing is everything. Be aware when you need to ask, but also when others want to share. As you become more aware of the power and usefulness of questions, you will use them to extend conversations. As a leader, you are making it safer for people to share. Use your awareness to step back from the conversation or situation and ask yourself if you are talking too much. If so, stop talking and start asking.
The best leaders don’t just ask questions of a group, but of individuals too. Yes, you can start a group conversation by asking a question of everyone, but ultimately you want an answer from everyone. Whether in a group setting or not, make sure you ask everyone so they feel engaged and involved. This gives you more insight and information.
One of the best habits we can create for asking better questions is to ask in retrospect. Asking afterwards about both what worked and what didn’t is a powerful way to learn. Here is a process for doing this after projects. People often think of reflective questions as something we do internally (and yes, you definitely benefit from doing that). But we can use reflective questions with others as well. Asking reflective questions will help you both as a coach and in overcoming conflicts and miscommunication too.
You can see that each of these is a reason to ask questions, an approach to asking them better, and a mindset that prompts us to ask them more frequently. Think about which of these might help you most today and make that your focus. Then, pick another one tomorrow, and so on. When you focus on one of these each day, your skill and habit of asking better questions will grow immediately, improving your communication success, relationships, and overall results.
Sit down in your CHAIR and decide where you will begin.
What your team wants is a leader who is skilled, attentive, and confident. Delivering those things has never been harder – because the role of leadership keeps changing. If you lead a remote, hybrid, or flexible team, you know your role and what your team wants (and needs) keeps changing. If you want to deliver for them – and for your organization – join us for the Long-Distance Leadership Series. We will help you gain the skills, insights, and confidence to lead today – in the ever-more complex world of work.