Monday, June 29, 2009

Managing through Better Questions

I recently discovered the Harvard Business Publishing website -- lots of good (and free!) info on managing and leading here. Found Judith Ross' blog entry How to Ask Better Questions with some great tips on putting leadership into practice. I've always been a supporter of participative leadership, where you focus on collaboration with and delegation to subordinates on finding solutions to problems. Although sometimes frustrating, in the long run it beats being "the answer man" and enables teaching and learning that creates a very healthy and capable organization. Ross has interviewed Michael J. Marquardt, a professor of human resources and international affairs at George Washington University regarding his book Leading with Questions: How Leaders Find the Right Solutions by Knowing What to Ask (John Wiley & Sons, 2005). Marquart makes the case for asking questions instead of offering solutions, and suggests effective questions have the following characteristics:
1.They create clarity: "Can you explain more about this situation?"

2.They construct better working relations: Instead of "Did you make your sales goal?" ask, "How have sales been going?"

3.They help people think analytically and critically: "What are the consequences of going this route?"

4.They inspire people to reflect and see things in fresh, unpredictable ways: "Why did this work?"

5.They encourage breakthrough thinking: "Can that be done in any other way?"

6.They challenge assumptions: "What do you think you will lose if you start sharing responsibility for the implementation process?"

7.They create ownership of solutions

Check out for more great management and leadership information and resource.