Leadership is about asking great questions more than giving great answers.
If I were to sit down with 21-year old Vick and share with him a few of the most important ministry and leadership insights I have learned, this would undoubtedly be on the list.
There is a perception that the number of questions you ask should decrease as your leadership influence increases. In recent years, I have discovered that the number of questions I ask doesn’t decrease, but increases. The more I learn, the more experience I gain, and the more people I lead…the more questions I ask.
Below are five reasons why asking questions is better than giving answers.
Questions foster greater transformation
Asking questions helps people discover the truth for themselves. It moves people to think critically. This transition from passive learning (listening) to active learning (thinking and discussing) allows for ideas to stick. Great leaders act as self-discovery guides and use questions to help people trip over insights.
Questions move others from dependence to independence
Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime.
The same principle applies to leadership. Give a man an answer and he will know what to do for today. Ask a man questions and he will know what to do for a lifetime. Asking questions prevents people from relying on you to solve problems. More importantly, you equip them with questions they can return to in the future that allows them to act independently. Great leaders focus less on making decisions for their team, but instead helping their team make good decisions.
Questions Identify The Real Issue
Can you imagine a doctor who provided treatment without asking any questions? The result would most likely be unhelpful at best and destructive at worst. The same is true with leaders who provide answers without asking questions. Far too often, leaders assume they know the issue and make judgments without ever investigating further. In doing so, they often address a symptom, not a cause.
By withholding the urge to jump to an immediate conclusion and asking questions, it allows you to get beneath the surface to where the real problem exists. Questions will help you dig into three deeper layers of thinking: direct causes, underlying causes, and cultural mindsets. With questions as your shovel, the further you dig, the greater the transformation.
Questions Breakthrough Cognitive Biases
A cognitive bias is a mental filter that people see the world. Kendra Cherry would explain it as a “systematic error in thinking that occurs when people are processing and interpreting information in the world around them nad affects the decisions and judgments they make.” Every individual has some form of cognitive biases. This is how two people can respond to the same situation in two different ways. Craig Groeschel says it well, “It’s not the facts that are different, but the filters in which people see a situation.”
Questions help leaders and those they lead remove the personal filter and see the facts. It breaks down our assumptions and perceptions and helps us define reality.
Questions Express Interest & Empathy
“Who listens to you?” This is a question that is becoming increasingly hard to answer. If you asked this question to people today, it would be rare that people could list more than 2-3 people who truly listen to them. Even more unlikely is for people to include their boss or co-worker as one of those people.
When leaders ask questions and listen, it communicates two things: humility and honor. It says, “I don’t know everything,” and “I value you.” Furthermore, when we respond with sincere questions and empathetic listening, people feel seen and valued. This quickly builds trust between you and those you lead.