Asking powerful questions is an art found in the simplicity of how we phrase a question. It requires thoughtfulness and practice. Being authentic and fully present is essential to having the impactful conversations.
As with any new skill, play around with your powerful questions, wordsmithing them until they feel authentic to you. We learn by practicing, assessing results, tweaking and trying again until we become comfortable with the art of asking powerful questions.
Many smart executives are great at giving answers. They are interviewed and give speeches frequently enough. But asking powerful questions is an art – a skill worth developing for greater impact. When I coach leaders and executives, we work on increasing their skills and curiosity 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, along with stories about how to use them.What do you think? These four words are key to initiating conversations. Click To Tweet
Here are three examples of powerful questions:
1. What do you think?
These four words are key to initiating conversations. Many of us expend too much energy making sure our opinions are heard and understood. Few of us provide adequate care and attention to the others’ perspective and opinions.
Many people feel the need to talk, not pausing to listen effectively. They end up talking too much. 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 most about people who listen to us. People crave appreciation, and they seek out those who will listen to them. There is nothing more potent than asking, “What do you think?”
2. How will this further your mission and goals?
Cultural 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 does not 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 is really important in your life.
3. Ask fundamental questions: Help me understand what you mean?
Ask people for specifics when they use clichéd terms: “Help me understand what you mean by ‘more innovation’ or ‘better teamwork?”, “Help me understand what would this look like to you?” Ask people to describe, in specific detail, what they would like to see happen.
Instead of assuming there is a shared meaning, ask for clarification. You may be surprised at how people answer. By asking fundamental curiosity questions, you take the conversation to a deeper level. You engage people and invite them think. Instead of imposing your views, encourage others to examine their assumptions.
What are some of your favorite, effective powerful questions – questions that really open up the conversation to a more meaningful level? Leave a comment, I’d love to hear from you.