When first starting out in your career, mentors and advisors always encourage you to ask plenty of questions to fully immerse yourself in your new role. But what happens when you climb the ranks and find yourself in a leadership position?

When thinking about asking questions in the workplace, it is often perceived that the questions should be coming from new and junior staff. Those who ask questions in senior positions are often fearful of being perceived to have a lack of confidence or knowledge of the business.

The reality is, question-asking only becomes more important as you climb the leadership ranks.

In line with this thinking, I sought perspective from Scott Taylor, Chief Operating Officer and President of Walk-On's Sports Bistreaux, a leading sports restaurant franchise co-owned by Saints quarterback Drew Brees. Taylor agrees with me that being an exceptional leader means asking your team members questions which can reap several benefits -- on the individual, employee, and level to the entire workplace as a whole.

"If you want to cultivate a team that is confident, empowered, and motivated to take their positions with stride, it's crucial to show up, ask questions and don't be wary of the misperceptions that stem from genuine curiosity," says Taylor. "Being in a leadership role means having the ability to constantly seek ways to improve, not only your business, but the team that supports it, and that starts with asking questions."

Taylor shared several ways on how asking questions can serve as a crucial tool in empowering your team. For example:

A Question to Instill Confidence

Setting up one on one "catch-up" time to ask specific questions pertaining to their day gives them the confidence that you have trust in their ability to achieve their professional goals while at the same time being in a position to offer support where needed.  "As the leader, asking these types of questions gives them the voice to explain vital information to you that they may only have keen knowledge in," shares Taylor.

One key question to ask: "Where can I focus my efforts and attention to better support you in your role?"

Questions to Establish Transparency

As the leader, you may not have the full view of the details and minutia that may be part of the responsibilities of each team member. However, simple question-asking will show your employees your genuine interest in their success by helping them prioritize or "kill" unnecessary tasks to improve their efficiency. 

Two key questions to ask: "Walk me through your typical day" and "what is one thing you think can help improve your team's productivity?" These will build transparency and allow your team to feel your presence and genuineness. 

Questions to Motivate Your Team to Improve

Simply taking the time to sit down with a member of your team shows you care. During these conversations, you should foster the development of forward-thinking innovation and problem-solving skills your team needs when facing challenging situations. If your team knows that they hold the answers to your questions, it serves as a motivator to become even better in their roles.

Two key questions to ask: To inspire motivation, Taylor likes to ask his team to weigh in on a big decision he has to make about the business. For example: "What do you think is the best response to this request from a franchisee?" And "What do you believe is the best way to structure an incentive program." 

Questions to explore their career goals

Take the time to really get to know your team and learn about their personal motivation for success and what their career goals are.  In addition to exploring their career goals and interests, this can be time to talk about their personal lives. Questions that go beyond just the business will boost employee morale because it will show the individuals that they are more than just a number but a valued member of the family/ team.  

Two questions to ask: "Where do you want to be in the organization in 3 or 5 years?" And "How can I help you achieve your goals?"  By showing a genuine interest in them as a person will further strengthen the bond and flow of communication. 

Questions That Cultivate an Open and Honest Work Culture

Culture can be a real point of differentiation and it's important to assess whether new and existing team members align with the organization's values and your culture of work. Taylor shared that he always asks new team members about their walk-on story. Here are two examples:

  • "Tell me about a time when you were told you weren't good enough, smart enough, fast enough or big enough for something...."
  • "How did you react to that?"

With their answer, Taylor shares a personal walk-on story of his own; the bond is incredible and is something that you share.

Asking solid, in-depth questions also makes way for more open dialogue even when you're not present. It will encourage the team to ask questions on their own to further improve their productivity and work environment. Taylor reminds us that "there is no such thing as a bad question, or asking too many." The key, he says, "is learning how to ask questions and how to best answer them to promote an honest and collaborative work culture."