John Maxwell on Leadership

My Favorite Questions to Ask to Engage Others and Learn from Them

Larry King, who has made his living speaking to people as a television talk show host, believes that asking questions is the secret of good conversation. He says,

I’m curious about everything, and if I’m at a cocktail party, I often ask my favorite question: “Why?” If a man tells me he and his family are moving to another city: “Why?” A woman is changing jobs: “Why?” Someone roots for the Mets: “Why?”

On my television show, I probably use this word more than any other. It’s the greatest question ever asked, and it always will be. And it is certainly the surest way of keeping a conversation lively and interesting.

Whenever I am preparing for a meeting with someone, I spend time determining what questions I want to ask. I do this because I want to make the most of the time I have, but I also do it to engage with the other person. I want people to know that I value them, and that, if possible, I want to add value to them. To do that, I believe I must get to know them. That requires that I ask questions, they talk, and I listen. And if I hope to receive value from people, again I need to ask questions and listen. You can’t do these things unless you get to know people.

The meetings I look forward to most are the learning lunches I schedule every month with people who can teach me. When we meet, I come armed with questions. Many are specific to the individuals I’m meeting with. But there are some questions I try to ask everyone. You may want to use them too:

What is the greatest lesson you have learned?

By asking this question I seek their wisdom.

What are you learning now?

This question allows me to benefit from their passion.

How has failure shaped your life?

This question gives insight into their attitude.

Who do you know whom I should know?

This allows me to engage with their network.

What have you read that I should read?

This question directs my personal growth.

What have you done that I should do?

This helps me seek new experiences.

How can I add value to you?

This shows my gratitude and desire to add value to them.

I encourage the use of questions to engage others and to learn from them. I believe you will find it one of the most rewarding practices you ever develop.

Adapted from Good Leaders Ask Great Questions


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