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The right kind of question

In many situations the only way you will be able to find out vital information about:
  • what has happened
  • what is happening
  • what is most likely to happen in the future
  • what your listener thinks and feels about the situation
  • what she or he would most likely to see happen is to ask questions.

The quality of the questions you ask will influence the quality of the information you receive. Consequently, being able to ask the right kind of question, at the right time, is a key communication skill, which every manager needs to acquire.

Asking questions will enable you to:

Obtain information
  • How often does this happen?
  • When he said that, what was your response?
  • What happens when you try doing it this way?

Check your understanding
  • am in right in thinking we are agreed on the price, but the delivery date is the issue causing the problem?
  • So do you think we should go ahead, or should we wait until March?
  • Just to clarify, what you have said - you want me to process half of the order now, and the remainder of the order in January, so you can qualify for a 5% discount?
  • I am not too clear about this - are you saying quality is the problem, or is it price?

check out other person's opinion or feelings
  • How would you feel about moving to a different office?
  • What is your view on the latest design?
  • Where do you think we could make an improvement to the service?

obtain advice or information
  • What would you like to do about this?
  • Where do you think we've gone wrong?
  • In your view, what is the best way forward?

Sometimes, for a variety of reasons, we refrain from asking the questions, which can help us to obtain the information and feedback we need. The next activity will give you an opportunity to reflect back on those occasions when you were reluctant to use this key communication skill.

The most common reasons for not asking questions are:

Not wishing to appear though we are:
  • lacking in knowledge
  • 'silly' or 'stupid'
  • inexperienced
  • unprofessional
  • at a disadvantage (everyone knows except you)
  • discourteous
  • inquisitive or prying

In business the price we can pay for not asking these questions include:
  • losing key customers, accounts, orders, contracts
  • losing our reputation and credibility
  • losing our edge in negotiations
  • losing our organisation's competitive edge
  • losing the support of our line managers, shareholders and other stake holders
  • losing our job

  • Often the only way for obtaining information is to ask for it
  • No one can be expected to know everything
  • It is better in the long run, to ask question which may make you feel uncomfortable and obtain the information you need, rather than pretend you know and understand, and later, cause real embarrassment or damage for yourself or your organisation.


What might be the consequences if the people in your team felt unable to ask questions of you to find out information they needed; or obtain advice, feedback or explanations?

It is your responsibility that will enable you to get the information you need.


Excerpts from The University of Leicester Diploma in Management – Resource Development International (RDI) Jamaica.
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