For generations, we have quantified the value or effectiveness of leaders by the answers they provide. We expect leaders to have answers, and we promote people to leadership roles because they have good answers. While answers are important, perhaps more important is the ability of leaders to embrace questions. After all, we can’t get to the right answers without asking the right questions. Before we can move from a habit of valuing answers to a habit of embracing questions, we must understand how doing that will help our organizations succeed.

Here are nine ways your organization can benefit by shifting from valuing answers to embracing questions.

Better decisions

When leaders embrace questioning and ask others for their perspectives and insights, more data becomes available with which to make decisions. By asking more questions, they will uncover potentially faulty underlying assumptions, overcome blind spots, and better identify the risks and benefits of the available options.

Enhanced innovation

When leaders ask open-ended questions, and encourage responses, new ideas are generated. This can help with problem-solving, identify ways to improve processes, and create new business opportunities.

Greater agility

In a workplace that is changing faster than ever, organizations need everyone to share their ideas, insights, and perspectives. By asking more questions, leaders uncover all of those, helping the team adapt and be more agile.

Better delegation and empowerment

When leaders stay in “answer mode,” they are far less likely to have a delegation mindset, and empowerment of team members will be reduced. Instead, ask questions of your team and then let them execute the answers they come up with. Few things increase the chances of a successful outcome more than ownership of the solution.

Improved communication

Communication is always more effective when questions are included. Questions improve the likelihood of mutual understanding and create an equality that is sometimes missing when organizational position is involved.

Greater trust

When people ask us questions, encourage our opinions, and care about our responses, trust is built with that person. When leaders embrace questions, they are likely to build trust with others.

Stronger relationships

When communication and trust are increased, relationships will follow. And when leaders are willing to ask questions about issues other than work, relationships can be further enhanced.

Increased engagement

When leaders stop talking and start asking, they immediately increase engagement! When people feel valued and heard, their commitment, ownership, and engagement will rise.

Improved retention

People are far more likely to stay in a job where they feel empowered, trusted, and engaged. They also want a leader they can trust in return.

Notice how many of these benefits are built on the one before it? As leaders build their skills in asking better questions (and doing so more frequently), they are enhancing all these areas at once.

Senior leaders are looking for all nine of these things in their organizations. In fact, many organizations would select something on this list as a strategic imperative. Yet few are embracing questioning skills as a competency that could increase each of them.

If any of these outcomes are seen as ways to increase your organizational capacity and results, I encourage you to consider questioning skills as a key component of your leadership development efforts. Next week, I will give you some specific ways to do that.

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