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  • Writer's pictureDr. Patrick E. Crawford

Precision Questioning

Leadership Thoughts | Issue #105
"Without questions, there is no learning." – W. Edwards Deming

I'm an avid fan of John Maxwell's works! I've read almost all of his books, plus I watch his videos frequently to soak in all his wisdom on leadership. I love John's ability to take complex concepts and explain them in simple ways, then break them down into different aspects of leadership.

One of the books that spoke to me is Good Leaders Ask Great Questions.

At first, reading the book made me realize how critical good questions are when making decisions. But as I started asking better questions, I noticed that it showed others that I valued their opinions and was genuinely interested.

When I read an article on LinkedIn by Om Maniyar titled, Precision Questioning (PQ) – The Best Leadership Tool, it extended my thinking about asking great questions. I am almost embarrassed to confess that I was not familiar with the term – precision questioning. I learned that "Precision Questioning" is a topic in courses for first-year MBA candidates. Although I've been implementing (PQ) strategies for years, I don't know why I didn't uncover this coined term and concept years ago.

Maniyar identifies two leadership skills, a decision-making framework, and a mastery of precision questioning. The author's theme of the article is making good decisions, but I believe the skills go beyond decision-making.

Decision-Making Framework

Understanding a decision-making process entails being familiar with the context and matrices related to the purpose of the decisions. Maniyar suggests that there should always be a set of criteria to back up the decision-making process. For instance, when hiring a new employee, you must review their resume against the job requirements. Do you know enough about the job to make an informed choice? If not, research beforehand to ensure you set up adequately formed questions. Don't just go with your gut feeling or "I think" theory, rely on data and information. The more knowledge you bring, the more credible your decisions will be.

Precision questioning (PQ)

When asking questions, if you don't get a coherent response, consider the problem might be with the question's quality, not the answer's quality. It is your responsibility to ask good questions and strive for great questions. Asking vague questions that are too open-ended will lead to inadequate responses. I've found that asking questions that build upon each other provides the best answers.

The author highlights several different types of questions. Evidence-uncovering questions can generally be answered with data and facts. Cause and effect questions ask, "what is causing it" and "how will it affect us?" An example of a cause-and-effect question to ask a technology director candidate is what is the cause of more people wanting to work from home, and how do you see that trend affecting our organization?

The Power of Tone and Attitude

Asking definitive questions can be helpful, but it's important to remember that your manner of doing so can drastically impact the results. If you pose questions with an attitude of trying to "catch them out," you will destroy the intention behind questioning. This cross-examination can be seen in many Congressional hearings, where representatives try to use questions as a weapon rather than a tool. A leader must understand the importance of maintaining relationships and earning trust; aggressive questioning does the opposite.

Remember, your tone and attitude are crucial elements in eliciting quality responses.

When Responding to Precision Questions

Let's turn the tables - now you are the person who is responsible for responding to someone's precision queries. Political figures are apt to evade questions they don't want to answer by deflecting. That said, dodging a question will not enhance your credibility or trustworthiness as a leader. My suggestion is first to furnish an answer to the inquiry and then qualify your response. Avoid appearing defensive or endeavoring to elaborate too much; simply give enough detail so people comprehend your reply.

Some described precision questions by saying it looks like a mine with shafts and tunnels. "Some veins are explored deeply, others are ignored, and you only drill as far as necessary."


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