The Question is The Answer

The Question is The Answer

March 4, 2024


Being a leader isn’t always easy. The pressure of knowing what to do and how to do it can be overwhelming.

The good news is that you don’t have to have all the answers. In fact, it’s better that you don’t.

Here’s why.

When you come to a conversation with a question rather than an answer, you open the door to new possibilities. Asking questions also invites your team to take ownership of the solution.

I’ve discovered that the better I get at asking questions, the more successful my team and my business become. As leadership guru John Maxwell says, “Good questions inform – great questions transform.”

Here are some tips for asking great questions:

  • Keep questions open-ended – Open-ended questions are more empowering and expansive than questions that call for “yes” or “no” answers. Open-ended questions invite the team to think more deeply and engage more fully.
  • Encourage exploration – Ask follow-up questions using phrases such as “and then what?” or “say more about that.”
  • Be genuinely curious – Don’t just go through the motions in asking questions. Listen with an open mind and a desire to expand your own learning.
  • Avoid editorial responses –The idea of asking empowering questions is to get the maximum input from the greatest number of people. If you feel the need to grade every response before moving on to the next, you’ll shut down the conversation too quickly.
  • Ask one question at a time – Rapid-fire, machine gun style questions lead to confusing responses. Team members need to know what you’re really asking to provide the best input they can.
  • Don’t telegraph your opinion –Team members naturally want to please the leader…and the other team members. If you over-explain the question or offer too much information, it will become clear that what you’re really asking for is agreement, rather than input.
  • Keep asking –Be willing to keep the conversation going until everyone has had a chance to weigh in. Don’t let the need for a quick answer get in the way of getting a great answer.

When you have finished a meeting, brainstorming session, or conversation, express appreciation for the answers and input you have received. Be clear about how responses will be used in shaping final decisions. Give credit where credit is due. When a team member’s idea leads to big improvements or successful innovation, recognize the originator of the idea. People will be more likely to actively participate the next time questions are asked if they have seen their ideas put into action.

You’ll be a more successful leader when you give up the pressure to have all the answers. Instead, become skilled at asking great questions. You’ll open the door to transformation for yourself and your business.


Chris Ann Williams, CEO