Today’s post is the featured article from the June 2013 issue of The Front Porch Newsletter. If you would like to automatically receive The Front Porch e-newsletter on the last Thursday of each month just click here to sign-up for your complimentary subscription

john-newQuestions matter. Our intentionality in asking questions significantly impacts our ability to lead. Questions drive insight and discovery. They have the potential to relationally create connection.

Effective leadership has a lot more to do with the questions we ask rather than the directions we give. The question becomes … how effectively are we able to ask questions?

It’s about moving from questionable to question-able!

In my years in Firmwide Recruiting at Arthur Andersen, I first discovered the power of “question” while working on a team to develop a sophisticated behavioral interviewing methodology. I was amazed to discover how short simple questions, consistently asked at the right time, could take a fairly common story to a very revealing level. In this process, I learned that our ability to effectively ask questions was directly linked to our ability to actively listen. The combination of the two enabled me to effectively probe a discussion. The result delivered exponential value.

It would be years later that I would further discover the importance of questions from my good friend and Master Certified Coach, Mary Jo Hazard. She helped me see how thoughtful questions help us avoid telling others what they “should do” and instead allows us to help them discover for themselves what they “need to do.”

It is amazing how questions, used with good intention, help you probe beneath the veneer of most any conversation.

Questions can also reveal your genuine interest.

In professional circles, I have often challenged audiences to consider their approach to networking with others. Are you going to be interesting … or interested? There is a big difference when it comes to connection. Hundreds of people, over the years, have confessed to me that they are just not good at networking. I usually respond, “sure you are … you probably just need to become more effective and more intentional in asking questions.” Often, networking is ineffective because initial conversations are made up of lots of statements by all those involved in the conversation. Put to the test, I think you would find that the quality of a networking conversation (and the results that may follow) are in direct proportion to the percentage of the conversation driven by thoughtful questions.

Questions even play an important role in our own internal conversations. They are a powerful tool in enhancing our self-awareness. They also enhance the authenticity of our spiritual journey. Our faith, itself, is enriched by our doubts and the questions that follow. Doubt is not the opposite of faith … it is the engagement of it. And questions are an inevitable part of that engagement.

Questions are also an inevitable part of effective leadership.

Yet, with all that said … questions, for the sake of questions, can be lethal. I have certainly been accused, by my children, of asking too many questions. I didn’t take it as a compliment!

As leaders, we must be aware and accountable as to where our questions originate. We need to understand what fuels our motives in asking them. I would suggest there is a direct correlation between the quality of our questions and the connection we have to our own core. In other words, a conscious awareness of our own personal core values enhances our ability to ask great questions. My friend, Mary Jo Hazard, draws an important correlation in how questions can become a powerful reflection of an individual’s core value. She notes, for instance, how someone’s core value of “respect” can fuel a healthy curiosity in their conversation with others. It’s not just about mastering a skill of questioning or trying to look interested … it is an expression of respect that is directed by your core.

Without an awareness of our own personal core, our questions tend to be more reactionary than responsive. And, with every conversation, a leader misses an incredible moment of truth to enhance a connection.

Core values, by design, cause us to question things. In causing us to question, they open our eyes to see things more clearly. They guide us. Ironically, it is by intentionally following them … that we are able to lead others.

So, as a leader, just how question-able are you? I’m asking myself the same question!