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Communicating effectively: how to ask the best questions

communication Aug 09, 2021
Communicating effectively: how to ask the best questions

How to build a brilliant career by asking three types of questions.

Want to instantly build a career that sets you apart from the crowd?

Be the person who asks the best questions.

One of the biggest challenges we have when it comes to communications is the fact that we tend to go on autopilot. If it worked last time, you carry it forward to make it work this time. You copy the PowerPoint template from your last presentation to make your next presentation.

Same goes for questions.

Often, we dust off a common list of questions to start a project, get a status update or learn more about a colleague. That’s a problem. For one, people have come to expect the same old tired questions, and they tend to offer the same old tired answers. They go into autopilot too, and that means you don’t unlock an insight to produce something better.

“A great question is something that reveals an answer you didn’t expect. Getting that answer starts with what you’re asking.”

But watch what happens when you elevate your question game. Use multiple versions of the same question, draw on motivational interviewing or offer scenarios instead of straight up questions – and things get much, much more interesting.

Years ago, I met with a food company undergoing a rebrand. They wanted to change the name of their product. I trotted out all the traditional agency questions – What is your objective? Why are you making this change? What else do need to know? 

I got nowhere. The CEO just listed off the same boring, obvious answers that I should have expected. Desperate, I called an audible. What do you hate about the name of your brand? The moment I asked it, I could see the heads of the Account Execs in the room pivot to me, silently asking “you just asked whatnow?” The room was silent. There was tension in the air.

And then the CEO smiled.

He’d never been asked such an audacious question before and it caught him off guard. Suddenly, the ideas were flowing. He didn’t like how kids didn’t ask for his brand by name. He thought the name was difficult to say and really didn’t stand out. It gave us enough of a hook to get started. To this day, I still smile every time I see the (still) renamed product in the grocery store.

That came from taking the obvious and rethinking what it can be. If you constantly get comments like “what an interesting question…,” you’re on the right path. It takes a little courage, but once people see you asking the unexpected, they’ll look forward to meeting with you.

Stay tuned, we’re going to dive into great question strategies over the next few weeks.