In the pursuit of success, there exists a powerful yet often underestimated tool: questioning. Curiosity — the innate desire to inquire and explore — holds a key to great personal and professional growth opportunities, leading individuals to new heights of achievement.
Effective questioning goes deeper into topics and conversations, helping us better shape our understanding, fostering innovation and creating more collaborative interactions. More importantly, it builds deeper connections and creates stronger relationships, which are critical for learning and development (L&D) leaders, who work closely with learners, stakeholders and others.
The Science of Effective Questioning
Effective questioning is a skill that can be learned and improved upon. To ask the best questions, start by actively listening during conversations, which means listening to what someone is saying to truly hear and understand them — not listening just to respond.
Once you are truly listening to another person, you hear more of what they are saying and can ask better questions. That’s the science. Get curious — ask for more information or details about what they’re saying or a specific topic that they are telling you about. Clarify things that they say or reflect them back to check for understanding.
As you get curious, shift from away from asking “yes” or “no” questions, also called “closed questions.” Instead, strive to ask open-ended questions in your conversations. A closed-ended question can shut down the dialogue as it only asks for a yes or no or one-word answer. Conversely, open-ended questions encourage individuals to offer more of their thoughts, feelings and experiences, fostering more meaningful and productive conversations.
In addition to enhancing communication, effective questioning plays a pivotal role in problem-solving. As you actively listen to another individual and ask clarifying, open questions, you’re getting more thorough information. You’re also listening to others’ viewpoints and opinions. So, overall, you are getting more complete information about the topic at hand, which is important when collecting feedback on a pilot program or proposed training solution. Additionally, you show overall respect for those you’re in a conversation with, and they feel included in the process, which builds rapport and trust.
Finally, problem-solving this way allows you to tap into the collective intelligence of another person, which leads to more comprehensive and creative problem-solving dynamics to find the best solutions to business problems — which may or may not include training.
Leaders Must Be Able to Ask Better Questions
For learning leaders who lead training in their organization while also managing a team of training professionals, asking effective and impactful questions is an essential tool to guide and empower team members.
Asking the right questions brings a team together in a collaborative environment where everyone becomes proactive contributors. Furthermore, when leaders approach their team members with curiosity, individuals feel empowered and trusted, and naturally will contribute more. Curious leaders also don’t settle for the “status quo,” meaning that when you ask a lot of questions, you uncover processes which could be improved upon — and then can make any necessary changes or improvements.
Harnessing Curiosity for Success
Cultivating a curious mindset ignites a thirst for knowledge and will benefit you in numerous ways in your role.
Curiosity plays a pivotal role in building adaptability and resilience. When faced with challenges and uncertainties, curious individuals remain agile and open to new possibilities. They approach setbacks as learning experiences and embrace change as an opportunity for growth, and this adaptive mindset enables them to thrive in uncertain environments and turn challenges into stepping stones for success.
Furthermore, curiosity fosters a collaborative and inclusive work environment. Seeking input from colleagues, valuing diverse perspectives, and encouraging open dialogue nurtures a culture of curiosity. Organizations build cohesive teams leveraging the power of collective wisdom and creativity.
Ultimately, developing your “questioning” skills will help you stay curious and drive innovation through the business of learning in your organization.