Questions Are Answers
Great questions change everything.
Commands invite protection, resistance, and fault-finding. Questions invite collaboration and shared responsibility.
There’s a great question for every situation.
- Inspire thought.
- Invite. “What do you think?”
- Explore. “What does success look like?”
- Solve. “How does life change if you choose option B?”
- Clarify. “What have you learned?”
- Establish expectations. “What would you like me to do for you?” or “What are you looking for from me?”
- Call for personal responses. “What do you think should be done?
- Don’t have obvious answers. “What’s important to you about this?”
- Express compassion. “How does this make you feel?”
- Create accountability. “What actions would you like to take?”
Bonus: Include silence.
When facing complaints about others:
- What do you wish they would do more of? (Power Questions)
- If this went away, what would life be like?
- How long has this been going on? Why?
- What have you already tried?
- What happens if this doesn’t go away?
- How could you change this situation? (Coaching for engagement)
When solving problems:
- What were we doing when we were successful at this? What was different about those times? (Coaching for Engagement)
- Who else has faced this challenge?
- What have you tried?
- How certain do you need to be before you take the next step?
- Who is impacted by this issue? How?
- A year from now, if we have failed, what didn’t we do? (Scaling Up Excellence)
When striving to connect?
- What makes you feel good/proud about what you’re doing?
- What surprises you about the leadership journey?
- What else would you like to accomplish? (Power Questions)
- What’s important about this?
- What does a win look like?
- What do you want?
- What should I be asking?
- How can I help? (Touch Points)
What are your favorite questions?
Think of a leadership encounter/situation and suggest a question that suits it.
That’s a great list of questions. I find that a lot of clients don’t like questions because they want YOU to solve their problem. But invariably they are the best placed to understand their problem and therefore realise what the solution may be. Questions just guide their own thought process. Superb post Dan. 🙂
Thanks Stuart. I find your observation true. Sometimes people want someone to solve their problem for them. Lose/lose!
Overcoming the pressure to solve other peoples issues/problems is an important leadership shift.
Well perhaps your best post since I been annoying you Dan!!!! Hehe
Stellar!! I realize I feel this way cause I like this line of thinking!!
I believe Jacob Barnett would like this too!!
We just all got to do better cause we are failing getting what we have to others ….ie 80% employee disengaged rate.
Ok my favorite question I got from a potential investor in my upcoming new business Project AS..
Read it in my email received at 1:34am this morning!!
I was asked, “how much money do you need”?
Yeah questions do not get much better than that!!
Ok everybody follow what Jacob Barnett tells is to do.
Stop Learning, Start Thinking!! Coolest video ever on youtube…his teen tedtalk!
Take care my friend Dan.
Today ya done real good helping the folks.
EA just my opinion based on my experience!!!
Thanks Scott. The people who agree with us are geniuses. I guess that’s why you think I did good today. 🙂
Dan my Dear Friend you just gave me the biggest belly laugh I can remember since I do not know when!!
You are quite the oxytocin generating machine today let me tell ya!!!
SP back to finding the next person I am going to unleash my oxytocin generating talents on!!!! They are gonna feel so good they never even imagined!!!
AWESOME! This is exactly what I’m talking about, Dan. This post is right on time. Great questions can also invite personal growth, creativity, and better decision making. “What do you want?” – HUGE! I am finding there a lot of people who cannot honestly answer that question. I saw in Inc. magazine a great question for soliciting feedback: What have we become worse at in the past year? Here’s one that truly facilitates an open door policy: What are you working on that is dumb or a complete waste of time? The response can pave the way for more adequately sharing the big picture of a project or actually eliminate waste. Thanks for such an excellent post.
Thanks Pastor. My experience is like yours. People are often taken back by, “what do you want?” They know they are upset or they don’t like something but they don’t know what they want. In the end they are working to stop or prevent something. It’s pretty hard to create the future in prevent mode.
Dan it is not always easy to think of questions to ask, it is nice to have a list to put in my toolbox. Thanks
Thanks Patrick. That’s one of the goals of this post. Grab one or two that work for you and pull them out.
Last night I asked a COO, “Where do you want to go with your career?” …. fascinating answer.
Really good post Dan, Like a good cup of coffee – it wakes me up and starts me thinking 🙂
I also like ‘why’ and ‘how’ as in “why do you think this happened” and “how can we prevent it from or keep it happening again”. Brings the group together as a team that solves issues and heals wounds rather then looking for a sacrificial lamb. – J
Thanks J. Love “How” questions. They invite tangible responses. Sentences that begin with how invite concrete responses.
I’m not a huge fan of “why” questions, unless we are focusing on purpose. Hope you don’t mind me saying so. What, How, and When work really good for me.
Good point Dan re “why” questions. Have to be careful they don’t become pointing fingers. – J
— “I understand you’re disappointed… What does satisfaction look like?”
— Good salespeople ask before they pitch.
— I agree, well structured questions are door openers.
KaPOW!! love that opening question. Thanks Ken.
Love this post Dan!
I’m a firm believer in the power of great questions. It was firmly embedded in the years I worked for a brainstorming and software company. The entire program was based on hundreds to thousands of questions in what were called modules covering a variety of topics. Any user could select any number of questions from the module and create their own brainstorming session for new ideas, solutions, to write stories and novels, or to deal with conflict resolution. I also had about 7 new modules in development where I was the one creating questions. So by the time I encountered Twitter chats, it was right up my alley! (grins)
I absolutely love a good question. One that actually inspires some creative thought and the kind that push me PAST canned ‘intellectual’ responses based on info already stored in my memory files based on past learning and the books I’ve read.
Actually, that last part right there is what we WANT to happen when questions are used.
A prime example is based on one of my other comments to one of your other recent posts (can’t remember which one off the top of my head this morning). However, I referenced how the ‘canned’ response to the subject of fear is primarily this from the majority of people: F.alse E.vidence A.ppearing R.eal.
Now…if we KNOW that the majority of the people when asked about fear is going to whip out this canned response, the next step would be to ask questions that force them out of their memory banks into the land of real THINKING. : )
So they come to find an HONEST and creative answer.
You are absolutely right Dan. Granted, there are times if we are brand new to things, people may want and need to simply be told and SHOWN what to do. (especially when it comes to technical tasks, systems, processes etc) Then people can either follow what they learned to the letter, OR, they may personalize the system that fits their own organizational needs and saves time etc. I often did this whenever I started a new job somewhere in nursing. First, I would learn how all the other nurses set up their day in terms of meds and treatments, times, how they laid things out, etc. I’d learn in their way. And once I had it down so I fit within standard operating procedures, I would find my own system that helped me organize and save time.
I especially loved your list on facing complaints of others. What a great way to not shut people DOWN when they have a legitimate problem that they are having trouble solving their own, but a way that puts the responsibility back on THEM so they can figure what steps they need to take to actually FACE the problem AND the person…and deal with it.
Right now? My all time favorite question is still ‘What do YOU think?’
Followed by….No…that’s what the last book you read thinks..I want to know what YOU think. As in…what do you think ABOUT what they think?
And slowly but surely…people start to understand and ‘get it’. So we get out of our canned responses and into the world of real thinking.
Love this post Dan! Thanks. : )
Thanks Samantha. I chuckled with your follow up to “what do you think?” …. First it’s kind of in your face. It’s shocking. I wouldn’t use “NO, thats what the latest book you read thinks…” to someone I just met!! 🙂
Yes, definitely a good call for people you’ve just met! haha I was thinking more along the lines of a coaching client you’ve already established a relationship with.
Or as Brene Brown has said…for those of us that need someone who can cut through our OWN BS. A coach for the coach or a counselor for the counselor types.
Especially for those of us that really do read a ton of books! It’s so EASY to pull up material we’ve already absorbed and read instead of NEW fresh thinking…we NEED people that know how to ask the right questions, and most important of all, be able to pick up WHEN it’s happening. To be able to know when someone is delivering a canned response on autopilot.
So we really do need people who can spot it and call us on it. (once a relationship and bond has been established! grins)
Great post Dan! Asking questions helps me to stop speaking and start listening more. It also gets buy in and drives accountability when the ideas and action steps are coming from the other person, not me.
Thanks Carrie. Written like a real leader.
‘A good question changes all thinking and behaving afterwards’ Marie Goldberg
Thanks Alan. The rethinking of what I thought I thunk is both awkward and invigorating.
Outstanding work Mr. Rockwell!!! As noted in one of your posts last week, “You learn the most about others by the questions they ask — not the statements they make.”
Ask questions and LISTEN to the response (being OK with the silence too).
Or as my dad would say, “Two ears. One mouth. Majority rules!!”
I just read your comment which mirrors my own thoughts on the value of listening. Glad to see I am not the only one who has this perspective. We all benefit from honing the skill of listening! I hope it is not lost in the youngest generation who are learning that electronic connection is human connection.
Have a great day : )
Thanks Phil. So true. People are always telling us who they are. All we need to do is listen.
Love the concept of questioning for many reasons. I would add “why” questions to the mix – to clarify purpose and intent. Ask “why” questions first and the how and the what will make more sense to people. Interestingly enough “why” questions are what toddlers ask most frequently and we try to quell that because we get tired of answering their questions. But then later when we want them to ask “why” they have lost interest. Why reflects curiosity and the need to know.
Thanks Vicki. When used to find purpose Why questions work. In other situations, what seems better to me.
I find a good “what” question reveals the “why.”
Once the question has been posed, don’t forget the most important part of the equation -LISTEN! We live in such a quick/hurry/assess/move along society that I find active listening is becoming a lost trait in our communication.
Thanks Dianna. Bingo! Don’t ask if you aren’t prepared to listen, respond, and follow through … even if the follow through is something they end up doing.
A world in a hurry doesn’t have time to listen. The implications of not listening are staggering.
Thanks for the post, Dan! Some of my favorite questions come from Alan Fine’s InsideOut Coaching and Feedback model:
1. During coaching, after asking each initial question, following them up with “What else?” until there is no more
2. From the Feedback model: What worked? Where’d we get stuck? What might we do differently next time?
Asking the right kind of questions is so important – thanks again for your insight and leadership in starting these discussions.
Thanks Patsy. The second question is the most important one! But that’s another post. 🙂 Thanks for referencing the “follow up” question.
A good follow up clarifies/explores the answer just given.
Thank you for this terrific post Dan.
Whenever I am tempted to “tell,” I remind myself to become silent and listen for the question that is not being asked. This keeps me connected to my true belief that questions are so much more inspiring than being told what to do. Questions create the path to true authenticity…becoming who you want to be and solving issues for yourself.
Thanks Cindy. I’m glad to see the connection of authenticity to questions. The first steps toward authenticity are questions.
sometimes in meetings, I will use questions ( to which I know the answer ) to get others engaged, or to share a point indirectly, start people down a different path of thought
Thanks billgncs. In this case, questions give people a chance to follow the path you already traveled. It takes some skill to do this without coming off as a manipulator.
not always my path, but a chance to consider another path.
Questions allow us to think more and better our situations. Over the years I’ve used the power of questions as a massive tool for achieving success.
Thanks Megaleio….. Best wishes for continued success. In this case, what got you here will get you there.
Questions can be a great way to engage in a conversation. They can also be abused when people begin to hide behind them.
Since Socrates we know the power of good questions, yet so hard to use them. Any guesses as to why? Today with the increassed interest in coaching we are rediscovering the power of questions which I think should be taught while in school, especially in this time of quick decision making and shorter attention span.
Dan, you picked great questions to be used in many, many situations.
Dan, good stuff. And, of course, that’s what we at http://www.QBQ.com are all about … asking that Question BEHIND the Question!
One of my favorite questions to ask is “How can you make this better?” and to be asked “How did you make this better?”
Not only does it give people the ability to move beyond a “settled-mentality,” but it also shows respect when asked “how DID you make it better” since you’re recognizing the greatness of whatever they produced.
To question is sometimes the first step to finding the solution. In my experience, the greatest hindrance was being too scared to ask the right questions because in my heart, I knew the answers would hurt and would disappoint me…but when I was finally confronted with the questions, I waded to find the answers and the process brought me to a better state. I’m still finding the answers but I realize that when I avoided questioning, the more I was left in the dark.