How To Boost Your Leadership Skills By Using More Question Marks

According to Stephen R. Covey, we should “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” How else can you understand than to clarify your perception by asking questions?



Would you agree with me when I say the best leaders transfer their motivation to other people so those people are as motivated as they are about the challenges they face? If you look at that question as a statement, it would be bold and easy to dismiss without an article’s worth of proof to back it up. But did you find it easier to agree as it was asked? I’m not telling you about this as some kind of “Jedi mind trick” that you can use on people to trick them into doing what you want them to do.


No, in fact the exact opposite will happen if that is your intention! What asking questions does is engages the other person’s brain. They have to think about a question. It is through their thought process and your listening that you can truly understand their wants/needs/don’t wants (their motivators) and incorporate them to motivate people.



I've been using it for a while and am still a long way from mastering it. A question mark is often the best direct substitute for an exclamation point in a highly charged emotional situation. However, in such situations, when strong emotions are getting the better of me, it still takes practice and discipline to step back, gather my thoughts, and ask a question.


Using more question marks can enhance your relationships with the people you lead so you get a lot more results as a leader. From now on in all your leadership endeavors, could you make a conscious effort to put a question mark at what would otherwise be declarative sentences?



Asking the question instead of making a statement is usually more effective because it gets people reflecting upon their situation. Always remember you can't motivate anyone to do anything. They have to motivate themselves. The best way to get people to motivate themselves is to get them started reflecting on their character and their situation. The question prompts people to answer, and when they are answering, they may engage in such reflection. I must warn you, you may not like the answer. Most times though their answer, no matter what it is, is better in terms of advancing results than your declaration. Also, their answering the question may prompt them to think they have come up with a good idea. People don’t see as much sparkle in your great ideas as they see in their ideas, even if their ideas are simply average.



For instance, your organization needs to have people to from point A to point B. An order leader might say, “Go from A to B” or even “We need to go from A to B.”



A questioning leader might ask: “Tell me, what do you think about going from A to B?” or “What's the best way for you to go from A to B?” or “Tell me, how can I support you going from A to B?” or “How will you take leadership of others going from A to B?”



Keep in mind I'm not talking about pandering to people. I'm talking motivation, motivating people to get more results faster on a continual basis. In fact, you can't order people to get more results faster continually. People tire of orders before the words leave your lips. Only motivated people can produce continuously. I'm talking about challenging people to undertake extraordinary things, to be better than they think they are.



The question mark, as opposed to a statement, opens up a world of results-producing possibilities. And it's a world predicated on their choices. After all, people want to have the choice available to them to determine their own direction. Don’t you?



Do you think by asking questions rather than making statements you'll start getting more results?

About The Author

Rob Calhoun

+ Rob Calhoun Helps small to medium businesses succeed by building systems for them that help them get new customers, retain customers, and re-energize past customers. Rob helps clients and marketers maximize the return they get from their online marketing efforts.

1 Comment

  • Daniel Funaro

    Reply Reply January 7, 2012

    This is great! When I was reading it I was thinking “I need to be asking more questions”. Great post keep up the good work.

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