In The Art of Asking Good Questions, we introduced open questions. Open questions are used to gather facts about the work, learn about your employees’ process skills and approaches to the tasks, discover what motivates and is important to them, and get a more well-rounded picture of events by listening to their sides of the story. They help employees develop competencies and confidence, which in turn leads to better work production. Open questions are also used to discover employees’ feelings, knowledge levels, skill needs, and views. Use these questions to find out information about employees so you can connect with, understand, and build a relationship with them.
The downside to open questions is that it takes longer to listen to the answers because you can’t control the direction of the answers. The purpose is to allow expression and broad-based, wide-ranging responses. You might have to sift through extraneous information.
How to Formulate Open Questions
Typically open questions start with What, How, or Why. Nonquestion statements that serve the purpose of an open question start with ‘‘Tell me about . . . ,’’ ‘‘Describe . . . ,’’ ‘‘Let’s talk about . . . ,’’ ‘‘Compare and Contrast . . . .’’
Sample Open Questions Using What
- What is your opinion about . . . ?
- What happened that caused you to suddenly miss this deadline?
- What will you do now?
- What do you think about . . . ?
- What projects could be delayed if the budget were cut by 10 percent?
- What could we use this extra material for?
- What would happen if we did . . . ?
- What is this similar to that we’ve done in the past?
- What did you observe?
- What is the value of doing the project this way?
- What would successful installation of this product look like to a customer?
- What does this software update mean to our clients? To our competitors?
- What information do you have on . . . ?
- What new opportunities does this information offer us? What potential
- What did we learn? How can we apply that to the future projects?
- What went well? Why?
- What would you do differently next time?
- What did our team learn that was unexpected?
- What are your goals for personal development next quarter?
- What is the impact of the restructuring on our Latin America employees?
- What do you think about our new project parameters?
- What else do we need to consider?
- What strategies do we need to consider to increase our customers in
- the Eastern region?
- What are the benefits of opening a site in Europe?
- What are the key alternatives we need to discuss?
- What is our best alternative? Why?
- What do the test results mean?