Rule 13 - Ask Good Questions

Rule 13 - Ask Good Questions 2min read

Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers. – Tony Robbins

Questions are the cornerstone of communication, leadership, problem solving and learning. So being able to ask good questions is the key to good communication, efficient problem solving and effective learning.

There is an art to asking a good questions, because after all if you put garbage in you get garbage out. If people are giving you the wrong answers, the chances are you are asking the wrong questions.

Open-Ended Questions -- Communication

It is not the answer that enlightens, but the question. – Decouvertes

An open-ended question is question that has a non yes-or-no answer. Open-ended questions invite people into a conversation and make them articulate their point of view, give you their opinions and share their feelings.

They are particularly useful when approaching safety corners. Instead of asking “Do you think that is safe?”, ask “When you went through your project induction, what did you discuss about ladders?” or “Explain to me what a Job Safety Analysis Card is?”.

Open ended questions can be a little uncomfortable, because they appear to hand control of the conversation to the respondent[1]. This is where the art of a good question comes in. Plan your questions, know your end, frame it for the respondent, use neutral words, focus for one answer, don’t interrupt, listen and use there answer to transition to the next question. Building the conversation so that in the end they feel like the idea or make the statement you are leading them towards is theres.

“Are you able to explain to me what a Job Safety Analysis Card is?”, "Awesome, what was on your teams JSA card this morning?", and "Why do you think working from a ladder is dangerous?"

When getting to know people and building relationships open-ended questions about them are a great way to build rapport. After all, we all love talking about ourselves.

The 5 Why’s

If you do not ask the right questions, you do not get the right answers. A question asked in the right way often points to its own answer. – Edward Hodnett

Toddlers love to ask why, over and over and over again. And so should you. Often the root cause to a problem can be found in the fifth why[2]. Start by defining the problem, then ask:

  1. Why did the problem just happen?
  2. Yes, but why was that?
  3. Yes, but why was that?
  4. Yes, but why was that?
  5. Yes, but why was that?

With the five why's, you will be a lot closer to understanding your problem. Asking why sounds simplistic, but it forces people to articulate their view. But ensure answers are based in truth, that it can be demonstrated. With each successive why, a layer of fluff is removed. Simplifying the groups understanding of the problem and its cause. The root cause can be found in the most simplistic explanation.

Can you Paraphrase what I just Said?

For true success ask yourself these four questions: Why? Why not? Why not me? Why not now? – James Allen

I like to check-in when explaining something new to people, to help ensure understanding. It can be frustrating when someone walks away and you think they understand what needs to be done. Only to find out a couple of days later that they didn't understand and missed the point.

I check-in by asking them to paraphrase -- repeat what I just said in there own words -- what I have just explained or asked them to do. But keep in mind, if they don't understand, the chances are you haven't explained it good enough. So try again and again until they do.

Question everything. Learn something. Answer nothing. – Engineer’s Motto

Check out the The Engineering Rule Book for the other rules.

  1. Open and Closed Questions ↩︎
  2. 5 Whys: Getting to the Root of a Problem Quickly ↩︎

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Rule 14 - The KISS Principle

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