The least developed skill for personal and professional success is the ability to ask power questions. It may be the most important yet when I coach executives, we often end up discussing how they are using questions. You would be surprised at how many clever leaders are great at giving answers, but fall short on when it comes to asking powerful leadership questions.
Many believe that being clever and quick on our feet helps to win friends and new business, along with our intelligence of being able to say just the right thing, is what attracts others. But knowing the right question to ask is actually far more valuable than having a ready answer.
Asking the right kind of Power quePtions – the kind that make you think and opens up the conversation – can help you. Remember the following when asking power questions:
- Induce discovery and insight
- Open your mind and energize conversations
- Reframe and redefine a problem
- Experiment with basic assumptions
- Investigate for greater understanding, awareness and clarity
- Force us to inspect new perspectives
- Innovate for the future
- Forge important relationships
- Gather information
- Focus us on what’s most important
Some masters at using powerful questions as teaching tools, and as a result were able to change the lives of their disciples are teachers like Socrates, Jesus, Mohammed and Buddha. We can not forget about our 20th-century intellectuals who were known for asking provocative questions like Albert Einstein and Peter Drucker.
In the book Power Questions: Build Relationships, Win New Business, and Influence Others (Wiley, 2012), consultants Andrew Sobel and Jerold Panas present more than 200 significant questions, along with stories about how they should be used.
“The questions we select have the power to give life to conversations in unexpected and delightful ways,” they write. “They are powerful tools to get directly to the heart of the matter. They are the keys to opening locked doors.”
I wanted to provide an example of a powerful question that can help your leadership, increase relationships, achieve priorities and enjoy more influence.
“What would you like to know about…?”
When people ask you to tell them about your company, job or services, be sure to clarify their reasoning behind their question before you start talking. Find out what are they interested in learning? Don’t assume you know. There’s nothing like giving a five-minute answer to the wrong question. Your answer should depend on the time, if you have just a minimum of time, make sure your answer is brief and on target. For example you can ask “What part of my background interests you?” or “What would you like me to focus on?”After you respond, ask if you’ve answered the question and if there’s anything else they want you to know.
The next time you’re asked a question, be sure to clarify and ask a few questions yourself. The more you understand the question, the better your answer.