Business leaders can foster open communication by asking questions

It is essential for leaders to possess high communication IQs. They are responsible for handling many communication skills in the workplace. They set a tone of trust, use the art of questioning, synthesize information by using the skill of listening, use acceptable body language, interpret the body language of others and project an image of fairness.

Leaders use communication skills in a very unique way. Their use of these skills is spontaneous — without collaboration or rehearsal.

Ask questions, always

Active listening is essential for effective communication. A person cannot be an outstanding listener unless they have something to listen to.

First, they must “ask questions.” Questioning opens the lines of communication. Voltaire once said, “Judge a man by his questions and not by his answers.”

There are several reasons for asking questions. We request information by using the “ask questions” technique. Asking questions demonstrates to someone that you are interested in what is being said. You can ask questions to obtain a commitment, such as asking someone how quickly they can deliver a set of documents.

In addition, the “ask questions” technique can be used to educate someone by asking, “Were you aware those documents were stolen?”

The most important reason for asking questions as a leader is to gather the information needed to make informed decisions and help your teams resolve their differences so that they can remain on task and complete their projects.

The art of asking

How you phrase a question will determine the answer you receive. Leaders must use questions that are problem-solving, otherwise known as “open-ended” questions.

If an individual asks close-ended questions, he or she can expect a “no,” “yes” or a very brief statement as an answer, but a leader’s goal is to elicit as much information as possible.

If answers are too brief, restate the original answer. This technique often forces the speaker to not only to repeat his or her original answer, but also to add more information. Don’t be afraid to ask for the person’s feelings and reactions to the issues.

Some favorite and reliable questions that foster open communication may be:

  • How do you see the situation?
  • What is your opinion?
  • What do you think/feel is the most important issue?
  • How do you feel about this?
  • How can we reach an agreement?
  • What will it take to settle this today?

And remember, there are no dumb questions. Aristotle said, “When you ask a dumb question, you get a smart answer.”

Leaders have to juggle numerous communication skills at one time. It is not surprising that the most effective ones have high communication IQs.

Renee Pollak, MA, CCC, SLP is a communication specialist, researcher and consultant to businesses who contributed to this article.