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No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.Albert Einstein

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The art of questioning

The art of questioning

The most successful managers are more than just persuasive. Asking the right questions is an effective way to get people engaged and help them improve.


At most organizations, assertiveness is valued over inquisitiveness. The ability to express clear opinions, staunchly defend them and assert one’s point of view is generally considered to be a sign of talent. On the other hand, a person who constantly asks for the opinions of those around him or her may be easily perceived as lacking in self-assurance or personality.

However, glorification of the "assertive" manager is very risky indeed. Certainly, the ability to set a direction and get others to follow is a critical asset. Yet, if a company shows that it values assertiveness above all, people may be more motivated by the prospect of winning than of finding the best solution. Even more importantly, while the importance of engaging the know-how of the entire organization is widely recognized, giving the floor exclusively to those with the talent to defend their ideas may leave some relevant viewpoints unexpressed.

The publications that we have selected emphasize the benefits of an alternative approach – asking questions. They show that a manager who is able to ask the right questions at the right time makes better decisions, rallies the energy of his or her subordinates more efficiently, and helps the company capitalize better on their ideas. In particular, three messages appear to be essential:

– Use questions to help people change their behavior, and not just to gather information.

– Don’t make people feel as if they are being interrogated. Instead, work to establish a relationship of trust based on two-way communication and dialogue.

– Through your questions, try to explore the ideas of others, rather than just validating your own.

Synopsis n.148b