Good questions are really predicated on two things. The first is knowing how to ask a question. It’s an art and a confidence in knowing how. The second part is the courage of knowing when to ask the questions.
If somebody comes to you as a leader and asks you a question, “Well, what do we do with client X? They’re complaining about such and such.” I could answer that question for them like this: “Here’s the way you handle it, you do it this way.” I could tell my employee exactly how to solve the problem my way.
But a better question — not answer — to their question may be along the lines of, “Why don’t you think through our relationship with Client X and come back with some ideas that would be in keeping with our values and our vision?”
That’s a different way of helping people think through their own decisions and how it affects the organization. That’s the confidence and art of knowing how to ask a question.
It’s also about timing. It’s knowing when to ask the question. There are some times you have to make a decision with no two ways about it. For example, the building’s on fire. Everybody get out of the building. You give an answer and everybody leaves.
If you’re trying to establish, promote or encourage attainment of a set of values in your firm, you could tell people how to behave; you could give them answers. But that’s not going to help inculcate a culture of the values of the organization. A leader who asks the right kind of question at the right time will help employees attain that higher level within their organization.