What’s your superpower? Mine is asking questions.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret.  I have a superpower. And…so do you!  Everyone has the ability and superpower to ask questions. Questions are the gateway to information, sharing, and understanding. 

As we know with the world today, things can change rapidly and without warning. It is important to check in and ask your employees how they are doing. But beyond just simply asking; it is imperative to understand what types of questions you could be asking and the ‘why’ behind those questions – that is the true power of a question.

 Questions Build Relationships

There is a beautiful thing that happens when you ask someone a question. It can immediately create rapport and build the relationship. Asking a question about someone’s situation or about something they are working on signals that you are interested, curious, or would like to know more about whatever that thing is.

Questions let people know that you care. Think of a time someone asked you a question about something going on in your life? How did that make you feel?  By asking a question, you have the superpower to express curiosity about someone’s work or situation.    

Questions create opportunity for information sharing. One of the main reasons we ask a question is because we want or need information. Using questions creates a space and opportunity for another to share information. Sometimes that can come in the form to satisfy your own curiosity or to benefit something else.

For example, if your employee is experiencing burnout – they may not even realize it themselves. Asking a few supportive questions can help that person increase self-awareness of where they may need additional support.

While asking a question is like using a superpower, the person answering is also given a superpower.  Their superpower comes in the form of sharing and feeling that their work is important. When someone is asked a question, it lets them know that their thoughts and opinions are valued and matter.  When you ask someone a question, it also signals to the person that you have something to learn from them, which may in turn build their confidence.

The Types of Questions You Ask Matter

As a coach and consultant, I like to avoid the use of the question why. Something about it carries judgment. I can tell you from firsthand experience that if I am asked “WHY” – my amygdala is hijacked (a term coined by Daniel Goleman’s work on Emotional Intelligence) and I am left feeling like I have to defend myself.  You can avoid that reaction by simply changing how you asked the question.

Replace the word with another alternative (such as ‘tell me more’)  ‘and see what happens. I would encourage you to try it out for a day. How does your perspective shift? How does the person’s response shift?

For example, how do you feel when reading each of these questions? Which would you rather be asked?

  • Why is this so difficult for you?
  • Can you help me understand the challenges you faced?
  • Why did you do it that way?
  • How could you have done it differently?    

Leverage Curiosity  

Using curiosity when asking questions can be a great way to step away from judgment. Using a curious mindset can open the space for honesty, deeper thinking, and better problem-solving. 

Pay attention to your intention when you enter the conversation and generate questions. How can questions be phrased to explore rather than judge? What is the driving force behind this question? Are you ready to actively listen? How can you remain curious?

Some of the most powerful questions can come from a place of curiosity. If we spent as much time on preparing and crafting questions as we do other communications – I bet we would all be surprised with the quality of information that is gathered as a result.

How to Ask Questions

There are many ways in which someone can ask questions. Most often, we are using questions in our daily ‘face to face’ conversations. Beyond that, using different tools, such as surveys, can be an opportunity to let employees know that you care what they think and to gather information. Once the information is gathered, there is a powerful opportunity to respond and take action on the information shared, which builds rapport and trust among employees.   

As culture strategists, everyday we are helping our clients ask questions to assess culture and determine how well-aligned it is to business strategy. How do we know if employees’ behaviors are driving and supporting the strategy? There are many metrics that can help measure if culture and strategy are or are not aligned. Our Culture Framework is backed by 5 decades of research to help leaders and organizations ask the powerful questions to determine how their unique organizational culture can drive their business growth.

Author: Keri Ibarra

Author Bio:

Keri is a Culture Strategist who partners with companies to align culture with strategic goals and empower a diverse workforce to achieve exceptional results.   Keri offers expertise as a coach, thought leader, strategist, and facilitator in leadership development, performance management, organizational effectiveness, learning strategies, and recruiting methods.