The Power of Second Questions
“Most people never listen.” Hemingway
Questions are gifts. Asking, followed by listening, says others matter; telling says you matter.
Eager to talk is reluctant to ask.
Enemies of curiosity:
- Disinterest. You really don’t care.
- Need to appear smart.
- Hurry. The need for speed, at least initially, stifles curiosity.
- Knowledge. Those who know don’t ask.
- Answers. Answers end thought.
Pretend you don’t have the answer, you may find another.
- Initiate listening. It’s hard to listen without questions.
- Call for answers. Questions create curiosity and engage minds.
- Ignite self-persuasion.
- Invite connection. Anyone who says they want to connect but never asks questions is confused or deceived about the nature of connecting.
- Guide conversations. Don’t tell people what to talk about, ask questions.
- Teach and open minds.
- Explain priorities. You ask about what matters.
If you want to change results, change questions.
Second questions matter more than first because they explore what matters. First questions address obvious issues. Second questions explore meaning, purpose, method, and/or value.
Exceptional leaders ask second questions.
First question: What’s your mission?
Second question: What makes your mission matter?
First question: Who are your customers?
Second question: What made them become your customers?
First question: What’s frustrating?
Second question: How can you address your frustrations?
Clarify before answering.
Never simply answer when someone asks, “What’s your story?” Always ask, “What do you want to know?*”
Save time, establish priorities, and narrow focus by inviting questioners to declare themselves.
Answer questions with questions, before giving answers.
Some questions are better than others.
- What’s wrong with me?
- What did I do wrong?
- What went wrong? (KaChing)
A favorite question:
I hear what you don’t want. What do you want?
*From: “Power Questions,” by Sobel and Panas
How can leaders learn to ask questions?
What are some useful second questions?