Infinity Consulting and Training Solutions

The #1 Management Behavior that is Destroying Profitability

Bad Manager

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4 times. That is how much a simple yet insidious and chronic habit is potentially increasing costs in your organization. The habit goes largely undetected because it’s commonly practiced, very observable, completely accepted, and highly resistant to change. As time pressures and the need to deliver results increases on managers, costs increase exponentially as a result of this bad habit. What are managers doing to destroy profitability? The answer – they have a bad habit of asking too many closed ended questions.

As a refresher, closed ended questions are questions that typically can be answered with a one word answer and often begin with words such as “can”, “do”, “will”, and “is”. Here are 5 proven reasons how closed ended questions (CEQs) are destroying corporate profitability and a solution to stop the destruction.


Closed Ended Questions Shut Down Communication

CEQs are effective for getting agreement. They are also effective at ending conversations, isn’t that right? Even if you disagreed with me, if I were your boss, chances are very high you would agree rather than challenge me.


Closed Ended Questions Create The Illusion of Efficiency

Managers think they’re creating 2 way dialogue when using CEQs. When these type of questions are asked of a group of people, silence is typically the response. Most managers take silence to equal acceptance or agreement, and that is a potentially very costly mistake. Managers also prefer these types of questions because they are easier and take less time than open ended questions. That is true but CEQs are ineffective for checking for understanding, and a lack of understanding is the leading cause of rework in most organizations.


Closed Ended Questions Erode Employee Engagement

Our online study and research by the Gallup organization on Employee Engagement is proof that CEQs are a root cause of disengagement. Employees want to have input. They want to be heard. The only way to meet those expectations is to have conversations. Unfortunately, overuse of these questions results in managers having monologues being delivered in the presence of hostages (aka their employees).


Closed Ended Questions Destroy Innovation

In every major study on skills gaps including those by SHRM and Bersin and Associates, creativity, innovation, critical thinking, and problem solving skills are cited as seriously lacking in the American workforce. Knowing how to effectively use questions is a critical management skill that is required for all of those high level skills, and overusing CEQs does not promote interactivity and dialogue. As a result, most managers are woefully deficient in their ability to have the types of exploratory and problem solving conversations that lead to breakthrough and innovative ideas for the most pressing problems.


Closed Ended Questions Create the Illusion that Communication has Occurred

Managers assume because CEQs are easier, faster, and simpler to ask that they have communicated effectively. There is extensive proof of this fact – just count the number of CEQs asked compared to the number of open ended questions. As President and Founder of Infinity Consulting and Training Solutions, by September 2012 I’d already worked with over 900 managers from all over the world. I’ve consistently observed the managers asking 4 to 7 CEQs for every 1 open ended question asked. This is completely backwards and dramatically driving up costs in the organization for all the reasons already mentioned.


The Solution

Increasing the use of open ended questions is very straight forward. Simply ask more “what” and “how” questions. It will take time, practice, and coaching to eliminate the bad habit of overusing closed ended questions yet the investment is guaranteed to produce a very positive return on investment (ROI).


Now that you know why it is important to ask more open ended questions, you can begin reducing the unnecessary costs that are hidden in plain sight for all to see.


For more tips and strategies on thinking your way to success and reducing the hidden costs of leadership, visit my website at, subscribe to this blog, and follow me on social media (Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Facebook). By doing so, you will gain access to leading edge research on management and leadership development and have access to daily inspirational and motivational quotes that will drive your success trajectory upward. So don’t delay, follow me and think yourself to success today!



This piece is dead-on and very insightful. Too many in leadership positions, wittingly or unwittingly, erode employee engagement by such behavior.
Too much intellectual capital is left to wither on the vine because it isn’t being sought or “picked.”
J. Ryan

Thank you for sharing your comments! I definitely agree with you that a lot of intellectual capital simply dies on the vine, and as simple as the fix is, the problem continues to be a pervasive challenges for leaders unless they are trained and then rewarded and/or held accountable to change their behavior. Thanks again for your contributions and insights, and please do continue to share.

Best Regards,


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Thank you for your compliment! We appreciate you taking the time to post your thoughts, and we look forward to continuing to learn from and share with you! Happy holidays!

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