Question deeply

This is #2 in a series on four pillars of exceptional leadership: listen thoughtfully, question deeply, develop mindfully, refuel quietly. Many leaders who are introverts do these naturally and well.

What does it mean to question deeply?
When we want to know more about a subject or what is behind someone’s thinking, we ask questions to get below the surface. But to expect someone to truly open up, the vital ingredient is your genuine interest in what they have to say. It lets the recipient know you are committed to hearing and digesting what they think. Showing genuine interest leads to a deeper level of trust, which can take time. Conversations become richer, more meaningful, and ultimate outcomes can be surprisingly productive.

In a coaching conversation with a VP, she talked about a challenge she was facing. Something in her comments triggered a question. I asked her to tell me more about “x.” She looked at me quizzically because that was not the point of her summary. As she talked about “x,” more came out in response to my questions that freed her thinking on what she could do differently. At the end, she chuckled because she had not planned to talk about that. Yet, it opened a window in her mind that shed new light on the situation.

She allowed me to explore with my questions because she trusted that I was truly interested in her success. Trust strengthens when you know someone hears you, understands you, may not agree with you but gets what your perspective is. It opens up opportunity for deeper discourse.

How to get better at questioning deeply
-Express your genuine interest in what the person thinks and what makes them think that.
-Listen thoughtfully and intentionally to know what to ask.
-Don’t think about your next question while the person is talking. You will miss nuances and nuggets.
-Ask, “What more would you like to say?” and “Is there anything else?” 
-Pay attention to your tone of voice.
-Allow silence on your part and theirs. It’s a golden time for thoughts to process and gel. (I am often amazed at what comes next.)
-Stay focused on the person talking. Don’t look at any screens.
-Don’t interrupt.
-If the person irks you, look for something to admire in them.
-Ask questions that move them forward, don’t get stuck in the past.
-Send questions ahead of time to express your interest and give them time to think.

This formula works:
Listen Thoughtfully + Question Deeply = Understanding and Trust

Next week, I’ll talk about “develop mindfully.” If you missed last week’s message on listen thoughtfully, read it here.

Want to experience deep questioning through coaching for you? Contact me and let’s schedule a 20-minute call.

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