The goal of a leader is to ensure that your team finds a solution to their problem.
To do that, they have to know what the problem is. You must know how to ask open-ended leadership questions to ensure successful conversations. Open-ended questions are essential for any leadership strategy because they allow you to understand your employee’s wishes and needs with subtlety.
What Is an Open-Ended Leadership Question?
An open-ended question is not one with a simple answer. When understanding an employee’s motivations and goals, you don’t want curt “yes” or “no” answers; you want them to deliberate and talk at length.
You want to know their point of view, and open-ended questions make that happen. The more the employee says in response to the first question, the more details you have to ask further questions.
The clearest example of an open-ended versus a closed-ended question is “Do you have any questions?” versus “What questions can I answer?”. The first could prompt a simple “no,” and then there is a lull in the conversation. The second, however, starts your listener to deliberate longer and ask several questions they may not have thought of.
Questions usually asked by leaders include fact-gathering questions, goal-oriented questions, and rapport-building questions. All of these are good and useful to the leadership process, but each needs to allow for an open-ended answer and tie in with the larger goals and needs of the employee.
Benefits of Open-Ended Question
Many things, asking open-ended questions equips you with better leadership skills. For example:
- It allows you to build trust and rapport with the employee, as it demonstrates your interest.
- You can learn more about the employee wants and preferences and define needs, goals, challenges, and other data.
- It places you as the expert in the discussion, presenting your value.
Open-Ended Rapport-Building Questions
Rapport-building questions start the conversation, get your employees talking, and help you understand the person you’re working with. It can also make you both more comfortable with a more personal connection and allow you to begin gathering the necessary information.
- Can you tell me about your priorities for this meeting?
- What is your background?
- How is business going?
- Please tell me about your upcoming plans for the year.
- What would you like to see improve?
- What is your biggest challenge right now?
- Could you list your concerns in this area?
Open-Ended Qualifying Questions
These questions can help determine the interest level of your employee in how you’ve approached the conversation. It can also let you know how to proceed. Not every employee will buy what you’re selling, and it’s essential to figure out how much an employee is committed.
- What is your timeline for this to be resolved?
- What do you see as the next steps moving forward?
- How do you decide this?
- When should you assess these solutions?
- How should we move forward after this?
Open-Ended Priority Questions
These questions help discover and address your employees’ roadblocks or concerns and further understand their priorities and needs. These questions should be carefully constructed so as not to steer the conversation toward something that can’t be fixed. Be sure to treat each employee individually, and don’t assume you know their priorities based only on similar customers.
- What would you like to achieve in the upcoming year?
- How is that problem changing how you operate?
- What isn’t working in the current setup?
- What improvements are you hoping to gain from this?
- What would prevent you from making this change right now?
Open-Ended Discovery Questions
A discovery question should be clarifying and probing, provoking thought and deliberation in your employee. The better you understand the employee’s wishes, the better you can tailor a solution to their needs.
- What are your intentions for the future?
- Can you elaborate on that?
- What are your reservations?
- What needs to be fixed with the current process?
- What have I not covered that you’d like to hear more about?
Open-Ended Goal-Based Questions
These help you discover the wishes and wants of your employees if you listen closely. When you know what’s holding them back from achieving their goals, you can better assist them with a solution. Focusing on the benefits of your product and how they attune to the purposes of the employee can also help close a deal.
- Why do you think this solution isn’t working?
- How is the problem affecting your work?
- What do you want this meeting to achieve?
- How should we assess the success of this?
- What could we do to avoid similar problems?
Responding to the Answers to Open-Ended Questions
Be sure to ask your questions without rushing into them or being pushy. Show your genuine interest. Your questions should make your employees talk for as long as they want, and you must be sure to listen to them and provide helpful conversation. Be patient and don’t interrupt; everything you hear can benefit a sale.
Learning How to Ask the Right Questions
Increasing your experience with leadership discussions will allow you to keep a better ear out for helpful information.
When you know what to look for, you will find that subsequent conversations will go easier.