If you want to kill a meeting, just challenge everyone to ask a really great question.

Trust me, I know. I’ve done this many times. I now expect stunned silence and sheepish looks. #crickets

Don’t be embarrassed, I tell them. Asking good questions is hard. Really hard. Especially for leaders because we’ve gotten to our current roles by being good at answering questions, not by asking them.

So here’s your crash course on a few different kinds of questions and when to use them:

  • Open vs. Closed Questions: Open-ended questions invite an almost infinite variety of responses. They’re usually started with words like who, what, why, or how – and sometimes where, or when. Closed-ended questions invite a specific response, most commonly “yes” or “no.” They’re usually started with words like “Do you” or “Wouldn’t you” or “Have you.”
    • Use open questions to draw another person out, to deepen a conversation.
    • Use closed questions to bring closure to a conversation topic or steer it in a clearer direction.
  • Fact-finding vs. Feeling-finding Questions: Fact-finding questions search for observable, tangible realities. Feeling-finding questions unearth the interpretations others make of those facts.

While all of these question types are useful, most executives struggle with open-ended and feeling-finding questions. By mastering these simple tools, they would much more efficiently understand what people think and what’s really driving them. Along the way, they’d save themselves a lot of irritation and conflict.

It all starts by asking a better question.

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