Whether you are the leader of a change team (or any team for that matter), or whether you are a change practitioner supporting leaders, this Inc. article by Jeff Haden has an important message: “Exceptional leaders never speak first. Neither should you.”

What happens when we speak first? We tend to ask questions that support the conclusions we have come to. We ask leading and limiting questions. We invite supportive statements rather than questions that challenge and explore. We force people to openly disagree. We “shut off the flow of better ideas.”

Haden offers an approach that not only avoids these problems; it provides the opportunity for better solutions.

Present the problem. Don’t frame the situation in terms of a proffered solution; present the situation. “Don’t you think we should go ahead and ship the order?” prompts very different responses than “What do you think we should do about that order?”

Ask open-ended questions. As Haden says, “then shut up and let people think. Don’t rush to fill the silence.”

Only speak to clarify. Once you start judging the responses you are getting, you shut people down.

Always speak last. You already know what you know. Your goal is to find out what other people know.  So stay quiet and listen.

There is one important caveat that this article does not address. None of this will work unless you have established a climate of trust.