If you’re like most team leaders, you probably make more statements than you ask questions – and some of your “questions” are in name only. When you are genuinely curious, you want to learn what others are thinking – but when you aren’t, you ask rhetorical questions; not for a real answer, but to make a point. For example: “You don’t really think that solution will work, do you?” This communication style leaves team members feeling insulted or defensive. They will trust you less, withdraw, and withhold information that you need to make good decisions. If you already know the answer to your question or you could easy tack on the phrase “you idiot” to the end of it, it’s rhetorical.
If this is the case, change your inquiry to a transparent statement that shares your view, including your reasoning and feelings. Then add a genuine question that helps you learn more about the situation and helps increase your team’s curiosity in the answer.
Adapted from “Increase Your Team’s Curiosity,” by Roger Schwarz.