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  • Writer's pictureaden sanlano

How to Master Questioning Techniques

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How good are your question-asking skills? Most executives do not consider this issue. After all, "the ability to ask questions" isn't typically listed as a managerial competency, nor is it explicitly taught in business schools or executive education programs. However, asking questions effectively is a major underlying part of a manager's job, so it may be worthwhile to give this skill a little more attention. The willingness and ability to ask Quality Questions is our primary tool for demonstrating empathy. Quality questions foster a safe space for thoughtful reflection on the issue at hand.

There are three areas where improved "questioning" can improve managerial effectiveness, and it may be worthwhile to consider how you can improve your skills in each.

1. Capability to Ask Personal Questions

Good managers are constantly asking themselves and others what they could do differently or better. It is critical to find the appropriate time and approach for asking these questions in a way that invites constructive and candid responses. People may reveal unexpected motivations and perspectives. Because they are broader and invite more input, the best questions tend to be how, what, and why questions.

2. Capability to Inquire About Plans and Projects

The challenge with questioning projects is doing so in a way that not only advances the work but also builds relationships and assists the people involved in learning and developing. This does not exclude you from asking tough and direct questions, but the probing should be done in the spirit of accelerating progress, illuminating unconscious assumptions, and solving problems. This is in contrast to some managers who, perhaps out of insecurity, ask review questions to prove that they are the smartest person in the room or to make someone uncomfortable.

3. Practice Asking Organization-Related Questions

Nobody wants to be the only person who participates in a conversation. The goal is to create a conversation in which everyone can contribute and influence. Creating an environment in which each participant's asking and telling is appropriately balanced fosters psychological safety for sharing perspectives and developing solutions. Managers have an unspoken obligation to always look for ways to improve the overall efficiency of the organization. To do so, they must inquire about practices, processes, and structures, such as: Why do we do things this way? Is there another way? Asking these questions in a constructive and non-defensive manner is an important skill for managers.


HBR Ascend

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