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Why Use Open-Ended Questions in Organizations?

written byMarilyn Atkinsonon 24/04/2018

In business, asking a great question is like turning on a tap. The ideas flow, we become curious and we start to think on a new level. The question takes us on a search and the search leads us into new territory. We immediately notice when someone asks us a great question. Every business leader has this ability to ask great questions. Great questions transform business results. 

Why don’t most questions do this? Most questions can be answered with a yes or no response and thus limit inquiry. The person asking the question may have an unspoken agenda or a judgment, which can shut down real reflection. Some questions lead into the past, where choices must be justified or defended. In business, many types of well-intended questions stop the forward movement of an individual or team.

What is the difference between asking questions and telling?

Telling people what to do is part of a business. Systems and information need to be communicated and procedures need to be understood. However, you cannot tell someone how to be a great manager or business leader. Telling someone how to "do" leadership can lead to confusion or overcompensation. Becoming a great manager or business leader is not a linear process. Telling people what to do won’t build great managers or lead to organizational transformation.

How can we shift from expert to partner?

Giving advice comes from the belief that a person does not have what is needed to find a solution on his or her own. This is not the message we want to give to future leaders. Asking a question, on the other hand, naturally engages partnership.

Open-ended questions stimulate inquisitiveness, resourcefulness and deep thinking.Business leaders find their own best solutions when they look into their own individual challenges and opportunities. Great questions create confidence and bring personal achievement to everyday life. Great questions guide leaders toward their deeper purpose and strongest future. Great questions open the door to learning. Most importantly, open-ended questions offer people an opportunity to move past fear and any limiting ideas they may have about themselves. This allows people to come up with their own integral insights and solutions. Open-ended questions build great managers and business leaders.

How can open-ended questions transform an organization?

The power of open-ended questions is that they lead to more open-ended questions. In the business setting, open-ended questions create a ripple that can reach far into an organization.

Open-ended questions are now recognized as one of the key components of effective management. Business leaders recognize that open-ended questions drive strong team relationships, accelerate solutions and create an inclusive leadership style that is the foundation of high-performance management.

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