We often make the mistake of thinking that leaders should already have all of the answers. If you want to be a truly influential leader, don’t hesitate to ask questions!
Often when we think we don’t have a lot to contribute to a discussion, we hesitate to ask questions. This is a big mistake, and definitely detracts from one’s image as a potential leader. Last week I discussed a technique for framing the question. Use that to help you overcome your hesitation.
When you do ask questions and get beneath the surface, you are more likely to uncover valuable information. You will start to understand the nuances that you might otherwise miss. And often as you break the issue down further, you will find that you know more about it than you thought – you were just struggling with the specific terms, jargon or way in which the issue was initially expressed.
Even if the discussion is in an area in which you believe you don’t have a lot of expertise, the more you break it down, the more likely you are to uncover particular aspects in which you do have related experience, accomplishments or insights you can use to inform the discussion.
It is critical as a leader that you put yourself in a frame of mind where instead of worrying about whether to ask questions, or how deeply to probe, you are genuinely curious about the issues being discussed. This natural curiosity will drive you to get and stay involved in the discussion. And people always respond much more favorably to someone who is really curious about the issues they are dealing with, so this sets you up for a win/win.
It is also common that many people nod and go along with the discussion, even if they don’t completely understand a particular point. When you ask a probing question, you set yourself apart from them, and they see you as a leader.
When you don’t hesitate to ask questions, you win on one level by getting a lot more critical information.
You win on a second level by building rapport with the other party – be it an executive, client, peer, prospect or interviewer. And the more you know, the more deeply you probe, the more you understand what makes the other person tick. And the more your leadership potential shines through in every discussion.
Go into meetings with a new mindset. Resist the urge to share what you know, and instead look for opportunities to ask probing questions to dig deeper into issues. If you are worried that the question might make you look uninformed, apply the framing technique I talked about last time.