Clean Thinking

3 types of questions to help others

If you are a manager or team lead, then asking questions of your team needs to be a well-honed skill. Here are three methods of using questions to help others get to answers that you can keep in your tool belt.

  1. A simple yes-no. Sometimes, it can be helpful to seemingly back people into a corner. This is an especially good technique when someone is distracted by a lot of irrelevant data points. Asking yes-no questions can force simplicity in one’s thinking.
  2. Rhetorical. This is useful to get the juices flowing for a true, effective brainstorming session. The individual doesn’t need to answer – there is no answer… yet. There are only thoughts, ideas, and concepts that need to be brought forth and noodled on.
  3. Socratic. Remember that the goal here is to help the individual get to the answer. If the person doesn’t get it, keep trying different ways to ask. Think of using the socratic method as creating a pathway from their thoughts to the answer. If you find a blockage, go around. If it gets rocky, go slower, and break the questions you ask into smaller component parts. Lead them.

Test these question types in different situations to see where you can get the most leverage and effectiveness. Perhaps you prefer one method over another simply due to stylistic issues – that’s fine. But do not abandon other types without at least having some practice employing them.

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