8 must know question types for Effective Leaders

“The key difference between leaders and managers is that leaders focus on getting to the right questions where as managers focus on finding solutions to those questions”. Michael Marquardt

How many times have you found yourself wondering over a well placed question?

How challenging and stimulating is it to ponder over or doubt established beliefs and guided by a thoughtful question reach new lands previously unexplored?

You can think of the art of questioning as your compass towards a meaningful and productive answer and result.

Michael Marquardt in the insightful book, Leading With Questions How Leaders Find the Right Solutions by Knowing What to Ask, explores this very theme. He posits that leadership is all about asking the right questions.

Let’s look at some basic points he makes that will enable us to become better “questioners” and thus, better leaders.

 

question

 

TAXONOMY OF QUESTIONS  – OPEN ENDED VERSUS CLOSED ENDED QUESTIONS

In general, open ended questions stimulate thought and the overall discussion. Closed ended questions do the opposite.

In Procurement terms you can think of open ended questions closer to what an RFI or an RFP is aiming at and a closed ended questions closer to an RFQ.

Let’s look at an example:

Close Ended: “Did you meet your KPIs?”

Open Ended: “How has our KPI performance been going?”

It is evident that in the close ended version the answer is “Yes” or “No”.

The open ended version allows and welcomes commentary and frees up the dialogue towards constructive and productive interchange of ideas.The use of “why”, “how” or “what do you think about…” aims to structure open ended questions.

We have now moved on from a black and white world (if ever we were living in one).

Currently working on complex concoctions of all shades and colours means that we need to embrace tools that stimulate discussion, employee engagement (see here and here for more on this topic) and allow innovation to thrive (other tools for innovation can be found here and here).

 

WHAT TO DO: TAXONOMY OF OPEN ENDED QUESTION

  • what to do

There are various types of open ended questions for us to choose from. The basic ones are listed below:

1) Explorative questions open up new avenues and insights:

Example: Have you explored or thought of………..?

2) Affective questions invite members to share feelings about an issue:

Example: How do you feel about ………?

3) Reflective questions encourage more exploration and elaboration:

Example: You said there are difficulties with your project; what do you think causes these difficulties?

4) Probing questions invite the person or group to go more deeply into a particular issue. Words such as describe, explain, clarify, elaborate or expand aim to do just that.

5) Fresh questions challenge basic assumptions:

Example: Has this ever been tried?

6) Questions that create connections establish a systems perspective:

Example: What are the consequences of these actions?

7) Analytical questions examine causes and not just symptoms:

Example: Why has this happened?

8) Clarifying questions help free us from ambiguity:

Example: What specifically do you mean by that?

 

WHAT NOT TO DO: CLOSED and OTHER DISEMPOWERING QUESTIONS

what not to do

1) Closed Questions call for a specific answer, either yes or no, or calls for the respondent to select an answer from a limited range of choices. Closed questions often begin with what, when, or how many, or ask the respondent to agree or disagree with a statement.

Example: Do you like black or white?

2) Leading questions are those that force or encourage the person or group to respond in the way intended by the questioner.

Example: Were you at the meeting with Bob last night?

A non-Leading example would have been: Where were you last night?

 

SUMMARY

Continuous improvement and radical change relies on good and bold questions been asked.

Coming back to Procurement and Contract Management, results in a recent IACCM study,show that 88% of Contract Management professionals believe that improvement of the quality of the Requirements specifications was the number one factor to improve contract performance in their organisations (see here).

Imagine if the above tool of well placed and well thought of questions was used to clarify and specify Requirements Specifications for our RFx. 

How much better the Procurement and Contract Management process would then be?

 

 

The future of Learning – Are you part of the Learning Revolution?

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” Alvin Toffler

In the future (see also here), I believe that our ability to learn and take advantage of varying environmental shifts and opportunities will define how successful we are and how successful our organisations become.

Johannes Gutenberg

Johannes Gutenberg

The concept of the Learning organisation has been discussed at length and indeed some companies have embraced it looking forward to how the marketspace would be endeavouring to equip themselves with the right tools and right skill-sets and attitudes that would enable them to remain relevant and succeed in the future.

Considering the Future, it is hard to predict what the art of Learning will look like. Technology, social media, interactive learning spaces and our thinking about education and learning is rapidly shifting e.g. embracing concepts like “multiple intelligences” (see here) slowly but surely will remove ourselves from the overly structured and dry learning spaces.

However, it will take years if not decades to fully understand how this shift in thinking will evolve and how it will affect us. To understand this better consider that:

“this is exactly what happened with the invention of the printing press. When Gutenburg first invented the printing press in the 15th century he did not have any idea of the transformative change this machine would bring to the entire humankind. A century later and after printing became a taken-for-granted part of life only then people realized the grandeur of such invention. This is probably what will happen with learning too”. educatorstechnology

As part of this discussion, I came across three resources that very eloquently discuss this issue and contribute to our thinking on how to make Learning more effective for our organisations and for ourselves.

Ken Robinson – his famous talk on the Learning Revolution on TED.com

Ken’s book the Element is also a great resource on the topic.

Sugata Mitra’s TED talk on his Self Organized Learning Environments (SOLE) Project.

SOLE is a great paradigm of how technology can stimulate engagement and learning.

FInally, Knowledgeworks have taken a look into the future of education and learning put their thoughts in this great infographic.

The Future of Learning - knowledgeworks

The Future of Learning – knowledgeworks

Download the pdf version from here.

 

How do you promote learning and employee engagement within your team and your own organisation?