Change Your Question Change Your Direction
The questions you answer determine the direction you go.
In order to find the right answer, you must ask the right question.
“The most common source of mistakes in management decisions is the emphasis on finding the right answer rather than the right question.” Peter Drucker
New questions that make small leaders bigger:
- What opportunity would you seize, if you weren’t consumed with this problem?
- What’s the real problem you’re solving right now?
- What frustrations keep returning?
- With next year in mind, what matters now?
New questions that make lousy meetings better:
- Who doesn’t belong in this meeting? (If you don’t have specific contributions and plan to leave with action items, you shouldn’t be here.)
- Who should be here, but isn’t?
- What do the people around the table actually bring to the table?
- What happened in this meeting that made it useful? (Ask at the end.)
New questions that make blind leaders see:
- If you weren’t waiting for the right conditions, what would you do next?
- Where are you expecting more from others than you expect from yourself?
- How do I want people to feel about themselves after spending time with me?
- Where will the people who follow me end up?
- Where is risking failure worth it?
New questions that make frustration useful:
- How would you be a better leader if you got what you wanted? Be that leader now.
- What expressions of vulnerability are you withholding?
- What benefits do you desire for the person you’re frustrated with?
- What are you willing to do about this? (Not, what do I want others to do.)
Change questions. Change direction.
What questions might ignite a change in direction?
What questions have changed you?
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Beautiful! As a Cognitive Coach and facilitator, I am always amazed and humbled by the power of an appropriate question. When asked correctly and followed by a good dose of silence, the shift that it can create in my own/someone else’s thinking is priceless. The most difficult part that I experience in coaching or supporting someone is for them to have a willingness to ask these type questions with no preconceived notions.(What does she want me to say?) This requires vulnerability and is often followed by action steps that create discomfort. Where there is discomfort, there is growth and a new direction. As always, thank you for a thought generating post!
Thanks Jeannie. Your insight regarding, “What does she want me to say?” is so helpful. I hadn’t realized that the answers I most love hearing are the ones that I am most surprised to hear…the unexpected answer. Your right, it takes vulnerability.
Liked the post
In some of the Q & A Sessions at the end of seminar, you are usually asked the questions for clearing the doubts for the things as covered. Sometimes, some smart audience try to check on how firm you are on your view points with googly type questions.Yet, one or two right good questions from the attentive audience compels you to think differently and helps you to look at other possible areas for utility.
The similar thing is experienced with management students while you are explaining specific concepts with suitable examples to make them understand. One right good question also puzzles you and compels you to think differently for a satisfactory conviction.
The speaker has to have in-depth knowledge and preparedness to tackle the audience with a rational approach.
Thanks Dr. Asher. You are so right. I’ve led many Q&A sessions. As long as we don’t feel the need to have all the answers, a question we can’t quickly answer is a thing of beauty. I’ve been stumped a few times. One time I just said, “That’s a great question. I have no idea what to say.”
Dan in the business crisis my old firm went through one of the initial keys was one of your points: we had to decide what was the Real problem? We did not have enough money to pay our debts but was it due to:
1. A short term swing in our business cycle?
2. Too much debt we had taken on?
3. A long term, structural decline in the business?
To solve a crisis like this the whole Senior team and the Board need to look at all these questions and then decide which is correct and then solve that question. Depending on which question was correct would lead you to either wait it out, restructure the debt (what we did) or sell or liquidate the whole company.
Brad James, author The Business Zoo
Thanks Brad. I always enjoy your practical comments. Thanks for illustrating the ideas in this post with insight and experience.
The questions regarding how to make a lousy meeting better are great! We often just have extra bodies in a meeting that don’t need to be there or don’t contribute. Always leave a meeting with an overview on what was discussed and what action items are assigned to which person. A deadline is also helpful to keep everyone on task.
Thanks Mitra. Great seeing you here today! Great suggestions.
Regarding who SHOULDN’T be in the meeting.. It’s probably easier to evaluate the invite list and not invite them in the first place. However, asking the question sends a clear message that only participatants are welcome in the meeting. No observers allowed.
Great useful content.
Two questions that were eye openers for me, changed me:
* What should I do more of?
* What should I stop doing?
This created some great conversations and helped me
Thanks Mark. So glad you stopped in to leave two really great questions. Your questions prevent us from sleepwalking.
Great post, Dan. These are really insightful questions. I really enjoyed the ones on how to make frustrations useful, especially the question about vulnerability.
Being able to express vulnerability is seriously powerful. It can be very limiting when everyone wants to be the best or the smartest person at the table. I’m a scientist, and this kind of thing is all too common in the field.
I’m going to try to incorporate these questions and attitudes into my work. Thanks!
Thanks Get… It’s great that you ran with the vulnerability question. Love your ideas about the need to be the smartest person at the table. It’s great to be the smartest person in one area…but unrealistic to always be the smartest. It’s actually limiting.
I’m reading a book about compassion. Surprisingly, compassion is very powerful when it comes to addressing issues like teamwork and collaboration.
Out of curiosity, what’s the book you’re reading? I might pick up a copy. The best book I’ve read so far on this subject is the classic Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, but I’m always looking to learn more.
That’s an interesting point about compassion. I’d be interested to hear more of your thoughts about this. Idea for a future post? Haha.
Thanks Herbie. The book is: Awakening Compassion at Work: The Quiet Power That Elevates People and Organizations. I’m enjoying it.
I’m interviewing one of the authors Monday and posting their guest post next Wednesday with a giveaway. You’ll definitely be hearing some ideas on this topic.