“If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes. — Albert Einstein
Hmmm… seems plausible and makes sense? Then why are we not better at asking questions?
Possible reasons could be A) more focus is laid on having the best answer, B) not wanting to be seen unknowledgeable about the answer C) perhaps because people feel they do not have permission or D) all of the above?
Well, whatever the case may be, in the new world of work, the thought and, for lack of a better word, courage put into questioning is paramount to innovation and transformation.
, (publisher of the awesome Recruiting Brainfood
newsletter) has made it his calling card practice on LinkedIn: develop an idea 2/3 of the way and then poll for opinions. He has an avid following - and has driven great conversations via different perspectives through his conscious practice of asking provocative questions.
It is a good calling card.
Years ago, I came across the article “The Art of Powerful Questions
” by Eric Vogt, Juanita Brown, and David Isaacs (big proponents of the World Cafe method
) and TBH it rocked my world. Simply and succienctly they dove into what makes good questions great - for leaders, for organizations, for individuals. By moving away from the quick and dirty - yes/no
- to the more powerful What - How - Why
questions, they broke down the structure to help foster better thought. They based their article a lot around Fran Peavey’s strategic questioning work which postulates:
A strategic question creates motion. A strategic question creates options. A strategic question digs deeper. A strategic question avoids Whys (lead to a defensive response). A strategic question avoids Yes or No answers. A strategic question is empowering. A strategic question asks the unaskable questions.
During my systemic
coaching certification, a key message stuck with me. “Use questions that allow the coachee to think - rather than on those that will just satisfy your curiosity.
” And if the coachee is quiet because they are thinking before they answer - never, ever, like don’t even think about it
interrupt this “holy time of the coachee”. Why not
? Interrupting rips folks out of their thinking process and hinders new realizations to be able to come to light.
And that is the magic of a well-placed question.
“Questions can be like a lever you use to pry open the stuck lid on a paint can….If we have a short lever, we can only just crack open the lid on the can. But if we have a longer lever, or a more dynamic question, we can open that can up much wider and really stir things up… . If the right question is applied, and it digs deep enough, then we can stir up all the creative solutions.”— Fran Peavey
So what makes for a great questions? Let’s dive into some different perspectives to answer that one.