The Seven Powers of Powerful Questions
Questions are the most powerful statements you make.
- Questions expose. Your questions tell me who you are.
- Questions invite thought. Answers end thought.
- Questions enlighten.
“It is not the answer that enlightens, but the question,” Decouvertes.
- Questions overcome resistance. People naturally question statements. On the other hand, ask an honest question and people lean in.
- Questions enable ownership. When I tell you the answer, I own it. If you arrive at the answer, you own it.
- Questions reveal what matters.
Ask about what you care about.
- Questions establish focus.
More on focus:
When I started riding motorcycles, I learned they drifted in the direction I looked. A dangerous thing if you like to look around.
Focus establishes direction.
What you persistently ask about gets done.
An organization that believes in relationship before opportunity could ask their employees for the names of the people they met that day.
Questions express values.
During a recent conversation with Scott Cochrane, Executive Director of the Leadership Center Willow Creek Canada, I heard a question that sent chills up my spine.
Scott went to a meeting and asked this compelling, outward facing question, “What do you need to see for our country to change?” I feel purpose behind his words.
Good but not great questions:
- Declining companies asking, “How can we stop our decline?”
- Failing leaders asking, “How can we better lead?
- Inefficient organizations asking, “How can we increase efficiencies?”
- Financially strapped businesses asking, “How can we make more money?”
If you or your organization is falling short, you may be asking questions that fall short. Ask questions with purpose.
Try asking, “How can we best bring value to those we serve?” for example. You won’t get the right answer until you ask the right question.
Follow Scott Cochrane on twitter: @WScottCochrane
What are the great questions leaders ask?
I believe that questions can work well during confrontation as we seek clarity for the sake of a meaningful relationship.
I like the fact that what we ask displaysthe focus of our hearts.
Yes asking purpose-filled questions empowers others to own and articulate their purpose.
For a while I have been reading your posts and recently I have found the boldness to contribute to your insightful posts, thanks for sharing with us all especially young leaders like me.
Great add, Kel. How many times have I thought I knew what was happening when I didn’t. Ask before speaking! It show care and respect.
I’m glad you found boldness to contribute.
What makes you feel valued?
How can I help you?
What seems impossible (now), but is the best possible thing that you believe could happen?
What would you do if you knew you could not fail?
Just aking questions to the universe.
Anyone care to answer?
Love your questions, especially the first ….other versions might be:
what encourages you?
what discourages you?
I find the topic of questions to be so fascinating, Dan – especially those that are ‘possibility’ questions.
One of my favourite questions for leaders to ask is, “What am I not asking you that needs to get answered?” Or variations such as, “What is the question you really want to answer?”
Thanks for adding great questions… cheers!
I agree and appreciate your points about powers for powerful questions. Jack Welch, a great charismatic leader, emphasizes on questions. Questions maximize options. Questions open possibility. I think the power of question depends on concerns. You are right that failing companies focus more on profitability and do not focus on underlying factor behind profitability. Successful and effective organizations addresses the power of human ideas and thinking. So, between successful and unsuccessful organizations lies is leadership concerns and ideas. When people are more concerned about their interest, desire and fulfillment of those desire, they tend to focus more on numbers. Whereas the same is opposite when leaders are concern about creating values and long term sustainable development. They tend to focus more on reputation, relationship, prestige, honesty, ethics etc. And they want to achieve success through these means.
Poor leaders ask the questions- what is in for me. Great leaders ask the question: How this impact people and society.
Delighted you shared your insights today. You’re nailing it.
Here are a couple things I’m taking with me:
Questions maximize options.
Questions about impact help us think about purpose. How are we impacting….?
A lovely post! Asking open-ended questions with the purpose is the right way to start a brain-storming session and encourage people to contribute with new ideas.
– We would like to grow at 25% in the next marketing year. What should we do differently to reach this goal?
– Our performance has remained quite unsatisfactory in 2-3 regions pulling the overall performance to 85% level. What basic care that we should now take to avoid such short-falls in future?
– Our attrition rate has gone up to 8%. It’s a cause of concern. Can you suggest the better ways to protect the retention of employees? List the three important reasons and suggest the remedial measur
es for the organization to benefit.
– In today’s competitive world, Research plays a big role to bring in
new innovative products and improve product processes. What is the scope of research in your respective units say in the next 1-2 years and 3-5 years?
Like-wise many more. The role of good leaders at the top and other professional managers is to bring good involvement of co-workers, subordinates and other associates and allow them to contribute for the betterment of the organization and its processes. Have good faith in others and use collective wisdom by providing a progessive work environment and give enough freedom to them to express their views go a long way to strengthen the path of progress.
Dear Dr. Asher,
A pleasure seeing you today. Thanks for powerfully tying questions situations and outcomes.
You make me think that asking questions is one expression of “good faith in others”
Hi! Thank you for an awesome post! I have have a question. I have a small tutoring business and I also do writing and editing work, including resume and cover letter help. What are some questions I can ask people I know and my current clients to get the conversations going?
Thanks for all your input!
You might try, What excites your passion. When they answer, try asking, What about that excites you? Best success.
The best question I was asked – in my second job out of University – Richard can you define equitable for me?
The answer is of course impossible, and fortunately I saw that I could not easily say how to deliver on the impossible, but I did have a suggestion as to where i could begin.
what i like about great questions – and you know when they arrive, is like your frog they promote a pause, a twinkle in the eye and a period of thoughtful reflection.
so for me anything that achieves that is a great question. I think all leaders need to have the capacity to encourage pauses in conversation without threat.
PS: I’m finally ‘in town’ long story I’ll catch you up on some time.
I LOVE your second paragraph…You capture the joy in great questions. You make me want to go out and try to create twinkles.
We’ll have to explore a good time for us to drive down to VA!
Thanks Dan, there’s even more power in the better questions we ask in the Solution Focus model. These are coaching-like questions designed to help the individual or team to find their own answers. I have been using them successfully for over 15 years. http://articlescoertvisser.blogspot.ca/2011/07/21-solution-focused-techniques.html
Thanks Alan. Always appreciate it when someone extends the conversation.
Great examples of compelling questions in this article. I like to use the words “interesting or curious” for digging deeper to these questions. For examples…I’m interested in what you are saying, tell me more. I’m curious about your comments, tell me more.
Dan – Great post! I agree completely about the power of questions, especially well-formed questions that truly seek insight. Depending on your goal, I do think that answers can beget more questions and continue to stimulate thinking. Your daily reflections are always thought-provoking.
Truly love #5: Questions enable ownership. I’m much more likely to own an idea I came up with than one you gave me. Questions give me the opportunity to come up with the idea. Love it.
As a coach the one that I find gets the juices running – is to ask a leader “What is it that you really want”. Simple question that can open a whole cascade of thought and action.