As leaders, we always want to ask open-ended questions that inspire dialogue and eliminate tension. Here are some strategies to use when asking probing questions.

The bridge before the question:

  • “Help me understand.”
  • “I’m curious; please share with me….”
  • “Could you tell me more?”

The questions designed for the current situation:

  • “What are all the possible solutions you can think of?”
  • “What is stopping you from reaching that?”
  • “What resources could you tap into to help you?”
  • “Who may be affected by this decision?”

The questions designed for the past:

  • “Give me some background; how did you arrive at that?”
  • “What have you tried?” (not have you tried A, B, or C)
  • “What do you think went wrong or happened?”

The questions designed for the future:

  • “What is your desired outcome?”
  • “What is one small step you could take now?”
  • “What would success look like?”
  • “What other opportunities could be there?”
  • “How would you like things to turn out?”

Some of the keys to breaking down communication barriers are asking the right questions, listening to the responses, and creating an environment that promotes honesty and transparency. As leaders, it isn’t our job to come up with all the solutions for our team, but it is our job to provide them with the tools and the leadership needed to identify their own.