Last week I delivered my newest keynote ‘Ask more. Tell less. Building fearless cultures and changing the world’ to a group of finance sector leaders. During the Q&A someone asked, ‘I can see how “asking more” would work with my direct reports. How do I use these coaching capabilities with my peers or my boss?’ Great question.
Telling leads to lack of engagement and accountability, regardless of the relationship between the people involved. When you ‘speak at’ someone, they stop listening – pretty quickly. How do you feel when someone ‘tells’ you, with no ‘ask’?
Conversely, when you ask good open-ended questions that get the other person thinking, their whole brain is engaged in the quest to find the solution. They are more likely to remember and take action on any agreements you reach. (This is the case, regardless of whether the other person reports to you, leads you, or is your peer.)
What is your intent when asking questions? Questions with an underlying negative intent (eg. to highlight holes in their approach or to showcase your superior knowledge) bruise relationships.
Questions with an underlying positive intent (eg. to show curiosity about the other person, to co-create a better solution, or to involve others) build relationships.
So when you want interesting conversations, that engage and connect with others – including your boss and your peers – ask more questions.
PS: My friend Adrian has a little game he plays at networking events and parties. When he meets someone new, he asks them up to five conversational questions. If there are no questions at all back his way, he assumes they are not interested, or interesting, and he moves on. Would you pass Adrian’s ‘interesting person’ test?