5 Steps For How To Ask A Good Question – Art of Asking Questions At Work

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Unlock the secrets of how to ask a good question with our comprehensive guide. Whether at work, in interviews, or in daily life, learn valuable techniques to frame insightful queries and enhance your communication skills. Dive into our expert advice to master the art of asking good questions.

Asking questions is a fundamental part of learning and it plays a crucial role in the workplace as well. Learning how to ask better questions can greatly enhance your ability to excel in your job and grow as a valuable employee.

Asking the right questions can also contribute to building strong professional connections. If you’re interested in improving your question-asking skills at work, there are practical steps you can take to craft insightful questions and gather the information you need.

In this article, we’ll explore the advantages of becoming adept at asking questions in the workplace. We’ll break down five actionable steps you can follow to become a more effective questioner, and we’ll provide some valuable tips to enhance your overall approach to seeking information.


4 Benefits of Asking Better Questions

Posing questions doesn’t just yield answers; it offers a host of advantages beyond that. Let’s delve into some of the ways asking better questions can benefit you in the workplace:

  1. Gaining opportunities to learn
  2. Creating a positive work environment
  3. Showing your drive to improve
  4. Forming new professional connections

1. Gaining opportunities to learn

Embracing a growth mindset means viewing questions as opportunities for self-improvement. When you ask questions, you not only seek answers but also foster a positive outlook. 

This mindset can help you become more adept at your job and better prepared to tackle any challenges that arise.

2. Creating a positive work environment

Developing a habit of asking questions can create a welcoming environment where others also feel at ease posing their inquiries. This practice doesn’t just benefit you; it can have a positive impact on the entire workplace.

It contributes to nurturing trust and honesty within the team, making for a more transparent and cooperative work atmosphere.

3. Showing your drive to improve

When you ask thoughtful questions, you’re not only seeking self-improvement but also signaling to your colleagues and supervisors that you’re committed to enhancing your skills and excelling in your role. This quality is highly esteemed and respected by employers and coworkers alike.

4. Forming new professional connections

When you demonstrate genuine appreciation for others’ responses, you’re taking a step toward building stronger connections. By valuing their input, you may find that some individuals are more inclined to assist you with your inquiries in the future, potentially forming valuable professional relationships along the way.

How To Ask a Good Question At Work

Here are five simple steps that you can follow to ask better questions in the workplace:

  1. Know what kind of answer you’re looking for
  2. Ask open-ended questions
  3. Be a good listener
  4. Ask follow-up questions
  5. Say thank you

How to ask a good question at work:

1. Know what kind of answer you’re looking for

The initial step in crafting a question is pinpointing the kind of answer you’re seeking. Consider the specific information you’re after—whether it’s advice, factual details, or an opinion. It’s important to align your question with the type of answer you need.

At this stage, think about the right person to approach for the answer you seek. Depending on the nature of your question, you might turn to a colleague, supervisor, mentor, or another trusted professional source for guidance.

Tailoring your question to both the content and the source can significantly enhance the quality of the response you receive.

2. Ask open-ended questions

Another crucial step in asking a terrific question involves crafting it as an open-ended one. Open-ended questions are designed to prompt responses beyond simple “yes” or “no” answers, encouraging more elaborate and detailed replies.

This approach empowers individuals to provide insights in a way that best suits their perspective, rather than being limited to binary responses.

When constructing an open-ended question, aim for clarity by asking only one question at a time. If you have multiple inquiries, it’s often best to pose them separately.

This ensures that your source can focus on each question without any confusion, resulting in more meaningful and thorough responses.

3. Be a good listener

Listening plays a vital role in the question-asking process. Once you’ve posed your question, it’s crucial to attentively absorb the response. Practice active listening, which involves offering feedback and refraining from interruptions while the person addresses your question.

Effective listening serves two key purposes: first, it ensures you grasp the answer thoroughly and acquire the necessary information. Second, it demonstrates to the individual responding that you genuinely appreciate their input and are genuinely engaged in their response.

So, remember, listening well is a powerful tool for both comprehension and building positive rapport.

4. Ask follow-up questions

A crucial element in the quest for asking better questions at work is the art of follow-up questions. Once your source has provided their initial response and you’ve had time to digest it, don’t hesitate to ask follow-up questions.

These follow-up inquiries serve a twofold purpose. First, they deepen your understanding of the topic at hand, allowing you to delve further into the subject matter. Second, they convey to your source that you respect their expertise and value their input, fostering meaningful professional connections that you can tap into in the future.

The key to crafting effective follow-up questions lies in attentive listening. Pay close attention to your source’s initial response, and when you spot areas that pique your curiosity or warrant further clarification, that’s where you’ll find the seeds of your follow-up questions.

5. Say thank you

Once someone has taken the time to answer your question, always remember to express your gratitude for both their time and their response.

This simple act of thanks serves two important purposes: it demonstrates your appreciation for their assistance and contributes to the strengthening of your professional relationship. Building this rapport can turn them into a valuable contact for future questions or assistance.

4 Tips For Asking A Good Question

Here are a few tips to consider on how to ask better questions at work:

  1. Speak clearly
  2. Keep it simple
  3. Be patient
  4. Speak neutrally

1. Speak clearly

When you’re asking questions, it’s essential to communicate clearly to avoid any confusion. Make sure your question is expressed in a way that’s easy for others to understand. If necessary, don’t hesitate to rephrase your inquiry to ensure it’s clear and straightforward for your source to comprehend and respond to.

2. Keep it simple

When you’re posing questions, aim to keep things simple and straightforward. Use clear and concise language, and keep your questions brief. This approach makes it easier for people to grasp your questions and provide prompt responses.

3. Be patient

It’s important to give your source the time they need to formulate their responses to your questions. Additionally, consider adding pauses between your questions. This not only gives them the space to think but also allows you to digest their answers more effectively.

4. Speak neutrally

When you’re asking questions, aim to maintain a neutral stance without injecting any bias or personal opinions.

Instead, focus on crafting straightforward, open-ended questions that encourage honest and unfiltered responses. This way, you create an environment where authentic insights can surface.

The Art of Asking Great Questions

Listening is indeed a valuable skill, but the art of asking questions holds equal, if not greater, importance in your journey to understand work tasks, discover hidden opportunities, improve outcomes, and manage unexpected challenges. Exceptional questions share three key traits:

Great questions reveal your readiness for a conversation. When you show that you’ve done your homework and understand the bigger picture, it conveys respect to your client, colleague, or manager. This, in turn, encourages them to share information that can enhance your job performance.

Effective questions demonstrate your expertise without overshadowing the conversation. Overly showcasing your knowledge can divert attention from the real topic. Meaningful dialogues thrive when both parties can contribute and comprehend each other.

Outstanding questions encourage others to delve deeper, broaden their perspectives, and challenge their beliefs. These questions often foster loyalty and trust, uncover fresh opportunities for everyone involved, and promote growth. Remember, by stretching your boundaries, you open doors to growth for yourself and those you engage with.

Asking Great Questions At Work:

I’ve spent the last ten years working as a consultant, and it’s been an incredibly rewarding journey. As a consultant, your main goal is to truly understand your client’s challenges – not just their current struggles, but also their past experiences and future aspirations. Only then can you provide valuable advice.

Listening is undoubtedly a crucial skill in this role, but equally, if not more important, is the ability to ask insightful questions. After all, how else can you uncover the information necessary to create effective solutions?

The art of asking exceptional questions isn’t limited to consulting alone. In any industry, individuals with this skill are seen as more empathetic. They create an environment where others feel comfortable sharing their thoughts, leading to better decision-making and enhanced collective intelligence.

Whether you’re a marketing associate, a project manager, a freelance illustrator, or something entirely different, asking great questions can deepen your understanding of your tasks, reveal hidden opportunities, improve outcomes, and help you navigate unexpected challenges.

To delve into what it takes to master this skill, I had the privilege of interviewing 12 senior consultants from prestigious firms like McKinsey, Boston Consulting Group (BCG), and Deloitte. I posed a simple question: “In your view, what makes a great question?” Their responses revealed three consistent characteristics.

1. A great question should demonstrate that you’re thoroughly prepared for the conversation

Instead of: “How’s business doing?”

Try: “I noticed that one of your key competitors recently made a bold move with their expansion into Latin America. I’m eager to gain insights into how this development might impact your company’s strategy for growing its market share in Brazil, which was outlined in your annual report.”

Instead of: “What kind of a look and feel would you like the new website to have?”

Try: “I took the time to stay updated on your company’s recent news and was truly intrigued to learn about your plans to introduce e-bikes in Paris. That’s quite exciting! I’d love to discuss how we can showcase this expansion on the new website that I’ll be designing.”

To ask a well-informed question, it’s essential to gather context from sources like annual reports, news articles, and even LinkedIn. Whether you’re inquiring about a project or a topic, showing that you’ve done your research and have a grasp of the bigger picture is crucial.

This not only demonstrates respect for your client, colleague, or manager but also encourages them to be more open with information, ultimately strengthening your working relationship and enhancing your ability to excel in your role.

2. A great question illustrates the expertise you bring to the table, without showing it off

Instead of: “Do you think your managers have the right skills to lead their teams in a ‘work from anywhere’ setting?”

Try: “Over the past few months, we’ve assisted two clients in optimizing ‘work from anywhere’ setups. Through these experiences, we identified two critical leadership challenges: fostering cross-silo collaboration and enhancing managers’ ability to gauge team members’ well-being in virtual environments. How would you evaluate your management team’s performance in addressing these issues?”

Instead of: “I studied marketing at the world-renowned Columbia University, and I’ve worked for prestigious Fortune 500 companies, helping them excel in content marketing. How committed is your company to embracing content marketing as a growth channel?”

Try: “I’m truly passionate about content marketing and I’m eager to leverage my expertise gained from Fortune 500 companies to help our clients thrive. With that in mind, I’m interested in understanding your company’s vision for incorporating content marketing as a growth strategy.”

Remember, showcasing your expertise is important, but it’s equally crucial to keep your contributions concise and relevant to the question at hand.

It’s not about listing accomplishments; it’s about using your experiences as a backdrop to frame insightful questions. In conversations, less talking and more listening allow you to gather the information needed to generate effective solutions.

When you try to show off, the conversation often becomes all about you, which isn’t ideal for a productive exchange. Effective conversations involve both parties having the chance to speak and truly understand each other.

Certainly, it’s important to demonstrate your expertise. Clients need to trust you with their business, hiring managers need to assess your qualifications, and peers should have confidence in your skills.

However, you don’t need to launch into a lengthy self-promotion. Instead, keep it concise and impactful by casually mentioning relevant past experiences or skills that lead to the question you want to ask.

Rather than saying, “I did this, that, and the other thing, and now I have a question,” you can say, “From my previous experiences with X, Y, Z, I’ve learned this, and it’s got me wondering (insert your question).”

Remember, the more you dominate the conversation, the less opportunity you have to listen and gather the information necessary for generating and proposing solutions.

3. A great question invites others to deepen or broaden their thinking, and challenge held beliefs

Instead of: “What I understand from our previous conversation is that you would like to improve employee satisfaction — as a lever for financial performance — through a series of workshops offered to team leaders. Drawing on your experience in the firm, what do you see as the three most important next steps to make this happen?”

Try: “From our previous conversation, it seemed like your goal is to boost employee satisfaction to enhance performance, primarily through workshops for team leaders. After some research, I found that work engagement tends to be a better predictor of performance than job satisfaction, with factors like autonomy, constructive peer feedback, and a sense of purpose playing significant roles. I’m curious to hear your thoughts on this perspective and what you see as the key steps moving forward.”

Instead of: “So, you’d like to organize a biweekly, three-hour update meeting for us to share the progress on this project and to stay aligned on the steps ahead. Whom should I contact to check calendar availabilities?”

Try: “I completely agree about the importance of regular check-ins and planning ahead, and it reminds me of our experience with implementing 20-minute daily stand-up meetings a couple of years ago. Initially, I had reservations about their effectiveness, but they turned out to be quite efficient in keeping us on track. Do you think something similar could work for your team?”

Final Thoughts

Asking questions that encourage others to think more broadly or deeply, and challenge their existing beliefs, often leads to the development of loyalty and trust. It can also uncover new opportunities for you. If you stick to what the client already knows, your solution may remain limited.

However, by introducing fresh perspectives, you can open up the conversation to explore bigger and more profound challenges, which may require effort on your part to bring to fruition.

Many of us tend to focus on saying the right things in a conversation, rather than asking the right questions. However, this is a missed opportunity because personal growth and development often begin when you express curiosity through your questions.

I strongly believe that asking insightful questions can propel your career to extraordinary heights, and I’ve learned this through my own experiences on the job.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do you ask a question in a better way?

To ask a question more effectively, start by identifying the specific information you need, then formulate an open-ended question that encourages detailed responses. Also, practice active listening when receiving answers.

How do you make a powerful question?

Crafting a powerful question involves keeping it concise, clear, and neutral, without injecting personal opinions. It should prompt deeper thinking and elicit insightful responses.

How do we ask deeper questions?

Asking deeper questions involves delving into the “why” and “how” behind a topic. Think about the underlying reasons and motivations, and use open-ended inquiries to encourage thoughtful exploration.

What makes a good questions?

A good question is one that is clear, concise, and relevant to the context. It should be open-ended, fostering in-depth responses, and free from bias or personal opinions. Good questions aim to uncover valuable insights or information.

How to get better at asking questions?

Improving your communication skills is all about practice. Public speaking can be nerve-wracking, so begin by speaking to unfamiliar people in public settings. You might also consider attending local Toastmasters events to build confidence.

Singing karaoke, even if you don’t know the songs perfectly, can help you connect your knowledge to words. Sometimes, discussing topics verbally can be challenging if you’re not used to it. If all of this feels overwhelming, you can start by joining a Discord community and engaging in conversations there.

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