Question Asking Skills: A Leadership Training Tool

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Ask yourself, why do leaders make bad decisions?

Corporate reputations are being destroyed alongside headlines that tally up daily deaths from COVID-19. 

A company known as the world’s largest pork processor is currently responsible for one of the biggest virus outbreaks in America.  Its facility produced a cluster of over 700 employees inflected with COVID-19.  All due to numerous missteps by its leadership.  Facing their first employee cases of the coronavirus, safety procedures were not established, fast enough, to protect others.  The illness spread, because of management’s poor decision-making.

Other companies in the news include retailers and restaurant chains that also have not addressed health and safety issues while still operating as essential businesses.  Examples included poor communication such as concealing the knowledge of infected workers from coworkers who had been exposed to them; punitive policies for employees taking sick leave, and planning promotions that brought in crowds without supplying the necessary protective equipment.  These companies are now facing negative PR, lawsuits, and being deemed unsafe workplaces. 

But there are techniques and tools that could have helped.  All of these bad decisions could have been avoided. 

Decision-making is based on strong question asking skills

Effective leadership decision-making depends upon the ability to get optimal answers to strategic questions. Question asking is key in unfamiliar and uncertain problem situations.

Asking clear and relevant questions is an essential leadership skill. Well focused questions gather important information, identify unspoken assumptions, clarify issues and explore options. Question asking is key in unfamiliar and uncertain problem situations.

Decision-makers must be able to make judgments based on conflicting or incomplete data involving internal or external challenges. Decision-making quality in unfamiliar and uncertain problem situations depends on getting the information needed for optimal solutions.

Asking the right questions

McDonald's sign stating we are open and ready to serve
Image: McDonald’s

An excellent example of a global company that has been asking the right questions to handle uncertainty would be McDonald’s.  They understood that it would not be business as usual and stepped up to the challenge that COVID-19 by asking what could they do to help.

Joe Erlinger, President, McDonald’s USA, explained, “While we continue to serve our communities, the safety, wellness and economic security of our customers and employees is our top priority as it has been throughout our 65-year history and especially today.”

McDonald’s is working on distributing more than 100 million non-medical grade masks to their restaurant locations.  When they came across medical grade masks, they purchased and donated them to hospitals.  At the corporate owned restaurants, two weeks paid leave is being offered to employees impacted by the virus.  Additionally, many of the independent franchises are offering two weeks paid sick leave via the Coronavirus Relief Package (which was supported by McDonald’s).

Jobs are being protected by keeping the restaurants in business through deferred rent.

Nationally, communities have further been supported through the donation of nearly 3 million pounds of food, including dairy, beef, produce, fruit and bakery items as of mid-March.  A formal program to provide free thank you meals to healthcare workers and first responders was set up in April.  At the local level, franchises supplied breakfast and lunch to children no longer in school, meals for seniors in need, free coffee for healthcare workers. 

Despite their size and scale, McDonald’s has been able to stay flexible and nimble to respond to changing needs from their communities, restaurants, employees and customers.

Question Asking Skills


A free training tool for improving leadership decision-making skills

Building questioning skills is an important part of training thinking skills.  Crucial question asking skills can and must be improved through practice.

The Insight Assessment complimentary PDF resource, Question Asking Skills:  A Leadership Training Tool provides a list of focused questions trainers can use to stimulate the skills needed to acquire important information, identify unspoken assumptions, clarify issues and explore options. 

Essential components of question asking and decision- making:

  • Interpretation
  • Analysis
  • Inference
  • Evaluation
  • Explanation
  • Self-Regulation

As trainees integrate this question asking strategy into their thinking processes, they will be able to improve core thinking and decision-making skills.

Commit to strengthening the quality of decision-making

The practical focus of this training tool enhances the talent development training benefits of improving  decision-making.

Trainers: Apply the techniques in Question Asking Skills: A Leadership Training Tool to strengthen your training strategies to improve thinking skills and mindset characteristics.

Assessment tools:  Insight Assessment offers a comprehensive array of objective, validated business thinking test instruments.  Individual and group diagnostics on overall strengths and weakness can be used to guide the development of educational efforts to strengthen decision-making skills.

Comprehensive personal reports provide insights for individual trainees, highlighting reasoning strengths and identifying areas for improvement.

Training tools to improve decision-making skills:  INSIGHT Development Program provides a complete package of training and development to optimize your talent pool.   From management to front-line staff, our online modules strengthen core critical thinking skills and mindset, at all levels. Designed for teams as well as individuals, these self-learning modules can be offered as stand-alone, self-directed curriculum or act to supplement existing L&D programs.

Also included are INSIGHT assessments which  provide objective measurements of employee strengths and weaknesses in 15 key cognitive skills and personal mindset attributes.  The cost effective, validated program can be integrated into your training programs or can be implemented as new initiative. 

Interested in additional training resources?

If you are interested in additional strategies for teaching and training reasoning skills, check out the many complimentary Teaching and Training Resources offered by Insight Assessment including:

Explore our website for practical training resources and our blog, Thinking INSIGHT, for further discussion of the measurement of thinking skills and mindset.

Contact us  to discuss your development program goals and needs.


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