"In my experience as a senior executive in the competitive and fast-paced sporting goods industry, I have seen my share of good leaders.

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The Sure-Fire Way to Get Better Answers: Ask the Right Questions

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Ever notice how the question, “How are you?” tends to elicit the same vague, non-descript adjective, “Good”? As a leader, asking the right questions of your employees can make for better conversations and a more in-depth understanding of your workplace.

‘Leading Questions’ Get Better Answers

In a court of law, “leading questions” are forbidden. But in the workplace, structure and direction in your questions can help employees closely examine the issues at hand. Consider the difference between asking an employee, “How are your days at the company?” versus, “What is the most challenging part of your day?” 

More detail in the questions prompts more detail in the answers – providing you with more valuable information. Your questions should also highlight your leadership and your vision for the business, by demonstrating your proactive attitude and commitment to constant improvement. Use questions to find out what works in your office and what doesn’t. Then, delve further, and discuss why these successes or failures occur.

 Make Sure Everyone Gets Asked

As a leader, you must not only recognize the expertise of your staff: you must also make use of it to make employees feel appreciated. Any employee at any level can make a valuable contribution to your organization.

Their knowledge and personal experience in a particular area of your business can help your company to streamline operations, avoid mistakes and make great improvements – but only if you provide them the opportunity to share their opinions.

Furthermore, by asking employees the right kinds of questions and taking their answers into consideration, you demonstrate respect for them and their role in the business, which has a tremendously positive effect on employee morale.

Translating Success Across Your Office

When you ask the right questions, you may be surprised by the answers you receive, or the direction the conversation flows; the information you receive can be translated company-wide. For example, if one department works particularly well together and has the highest level of employee retention in your entire company, asking the right questions will reveal why that team is so effective.

You can then translate their success across your company. Perhaps the supervisor of that department has a particular leadership style that boosts morale, or maybe that department socializes once monthly outside of work. You won’t know why it’s working so well unless your questions also prompt employees to consider why.

The right questions will identify not only what their successes are and how they accomplish them, but also why they are so effective. This leaves you to implement their best practices across the board.   

Strong and Structured Questions Get the Answers You Need

If you want to improve the quality of your conversations, work to develop the kinds of questions you ask. Strong, structured questions that demonstrate your ability as a leader to listen, the vision you have for your workplace and your respect for employees can inspire detailed answers with often surprising insights.

This valuable information can help you to make well-educated decisions, to implement best practices and to change tactics in areas that need improvement. The answers are there; your employees have the knowledge and opinions inside them – but are you asking the right questions? 

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Julie Nimmons

Julie Nimmons

Julie uses her 30 years’ experience to help CEOs, executives and business owners in her Vistage Group find success in their businesses and personal lives. With positive leadership, a firm sense of prioritization and the commitment to lifelong learning, Julie’s creates a constructive workspace for Group members where honesty, innovation and cooperation can flourish.