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The Question Conundrum

One underused tool of the great manager is asking questions. Using questions helps develop innovative and appropriate solu

tions and helps develop employees. It is an area that I am getting better at, but still need a lot of work. As I think about my ability to ask questions - here are the things on which I reflect:

When should I use questions?

All the research says that questions have a bigger impact than just telling - we learn more through the exploratory method than by lecture. That is why Socrates was so effective in training philosophers. But that obviously isn't a black or white issue. After all, there are times when using questions is very effective, but there are times when I shouldn't use questions.

I try to consider the development needs of the employee and the situation. For example, if the question could help the employee grow (either in skill or confidence) and the situation isn't high pressure, I may take the time to use questions. However, if the situation is incredibly time-sensitive, or if not having a direct answer could put the employee in danger, I don't use questions.

Can questions be overused?

Most certainly. If every time an employee asks a question or has an issue I start in with questions, it would get annoying. There are many times when an answer and a quick discussion is warranted.

However, this leads to the connecting question - am I underusing questions? I don't think I've mastered the balance (assuming the balance can be mastered). My only concern is that I am defaulting to the non-question method because it is easier to me, not because it is right for the employee.

Do I ask good questions?

This is where I think my biggest issue lies. I tend to ask questions that pop into my head, not with any intentionality. I'm not even sure what qualifies as a good question.


This will be something that will be an ever evolving journey. How would you rate yourself in terms of asking questions? What do you do to make it effective?

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