Many smart executives know the answers. During an interview they provide speeches instead of answers. But asking powerful questions is a skill worth developing for greater impact. In the work I do coaching executives, http://www.dianagabriel.com/procoaching.php, one thing that we work on is raising their curiosity and skills for asking powerful questions.
In Power Questions: Build Relationships, Win New Business, and Influence Others (Wiley, 2012), consultants Andrew Sobel and Jerold Panas present more than 200 significant questions, as well as stories about how to use them.
Three power questions that aren’t used often enough, in my opinion, are listed below:
1. “What do you think?”
These four words are key to beginning conversations. Many of us spend too much energy making sure our opinions are heard and understood. Few of us provide acceptable care and attention to the other persons perspective and opinions.
Many people feel the need to talk too much, and too few break to listen effectively. As Henry David Thoreau once wrote in his diary, “The greatest compliment was paid to me today. Someone asked me what I thought and actually attended to my answer.”
Studies repeatedly demonstrate that people care the most about people who listen to us. People need appreciation, and they seek out those who will listen to them. There is nothing more compelling than asking, “What do you think?”
2. “How will this further your mission and goals?
Traditional expectations can make us feel hungry to achieve wealth, power and fame. This applies to both individuals and organizations. We become engrossed in the day-to-day challenges associated with winning at all costs, but this doesn’t necessarily nurture our hearts and souls.
Before you invest time and energy in pursuing the wrong goals, ask yourself, “Is this consistent with my values and beliefs?” Focus on what’s really important in your life.
3. Ask essential questions: “What do you mean?”
Ask people for particulars when they use unoriginal terms: “What do you mean by ‘more innovation’—or, better teamwork?” or “What would this look like to you?” Ask people to describe, in precise detail, what they would like to see happen.
Instead of assuming that you understand what they are saying, ask for clarification. You’ll be surprised at their response back. By asking essential questions, you take the conversation to a deeper level. You engage people and make them think. Instead of imposing your views, encourage others to examine their assumptions.
What are some of your favorite power questions? The ones that really open up the conversation to a more meaningful level? I’d love to hear from you; leave a comment.