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How Open are your Open-Ended Questions



Simply stated, open ended questions during employee-manager interaction, is one that creates a fact-finding learning experience for both the questioner, and the person being questioned. Naturally, the best crafted open-ended questions provide insight for everyone involved. Questions that provide the most value in communication, and lead to resolving intended concerns are open-ended instead of closed-ended. Many managers are well aware of this distinction, the real value however lies in taking actions to formulate the questions as such.

How to Design Open-ended Questions?

During a feedback session, if you ask an employee, “Do you know why we’re here?” this is of course a closed-ended question since they can only answer “yes” or “no.” Unless of course in some rare cases when the employee may choose to say something to the effect of “I think so”, or “why don’t you tell why we’re here?” In such instances, unless the employee volunteer some useful information in their answer, you’ll never know how they really feel. It will be extremely difficult to uncover the reasoning behind their answer. Whereas you could simply ask, “could you tell me why we’re here?”

This last question gives the employee an opportunity to clearly articulate their thoughts, as you in turn get a clearer perception on the meeting. Furthermore, asking the employee if they know why they are attending the session, reinforces in their mind the purpose of the meeting. As a result, it’s not likely to be seen as a waste of time.

Examples of Open-Ended Questions Managers can use during Feedback Sessions:

What are the top challenges in your current position?
What are some goals you have set for your development in this role?
How do you feel either myself or the company can help you to meet these goals?
Tell me how you feel about career progression within the department
What are your short and long-term career goals?
How do you feel that you’re progressing towards achieving these goals?
How do you feel a long-term tenure with the department will benefit you?
What areas of improvement you consider to be necessary for production?
Which processes are working well at the moment?
What obstacles may prevent you from meeting your goals in the near future?

With ample practice, it’s definitely possible to turn possible closed-ended questions into open-ended quests. A manager has to focus on their reason for asking the question. At the beginning, you may have to prepare your questions in advance. Practice asking yourself the same question. Does it yield a well thought out and detailed answer. Remember to start the questions with “Tell me”, “How well….”, “What are some….”, “Which….”, or even take it a step further and start by saying “explain something to me…”etc.

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