Ask any employer what they want, and they’ll tell you the same thing: to better connect with employees and increase engagement.

Most employers don’t realise that opportunity comes knocking every time they address their team – as a group or one-on-one.

Fact: It all boils down to communication: The force with the power to make or break an employee’s connection with a company, or YOU as their leader. Communication is key, and as soon as you start asking open-ended questions, everything will change. You will finally give your team members the opportunity to share their thoughts and ideas. Taking the time to listen helps them feel more valued for their input. It shows that you care about their contribution to your business.

However, be warned: Asking open-ended questions isn’t an easy habit to start forming. In other words, it’s challenging to break the habit of purely asking closed questions! The good news is that it is possible to change your tune. You can even start giving it a try today!

Instead of: Was the meeting helpful?

Try: What about the meeting was helpful to you? 

Instead of: Do you see any challenges with this concept?

Try: What challenges do you see with this concept?

Instead of: Can this be done in any way?

Try: What other ways are there to do this?

Instead of: Did you meet your target?

Try: How are your sales going this month?

It’s simple to remember. Instead of asking something that only really has a “yes” or “no” answer, use keywords that ask their opinion: what, how, who, and when.

The proof is in the pudding, and if you say any of these out loud, an answer will follow.

What…are your thoughts?

How…do you see this happening?

Who…will this affect?

Where…might there be a problem?

When…would this problem occur?

Descriptor questions are also key, for example:

Can you help me understand this more?

Would you mind telling me more about…

I’m curious about…

It may take some getting used to, and you’ll surely find yourself asking closed questions a lot, purely because of ingrained habits. If this happens, just follow the question up with a simple what, how, who, or when. Repetition is the key to success, and if you repeat a habit daily, it’s no longer a habit. It’s a part of your character.

Have you got any examples of open-ended questions? Let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!

Claire Jung