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Issue #32: An Ode to the Power of a Well-Placed Question

“If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55

Transforming Talent Insights

March 29 · Issue #32 · View online
Feeding the Passion for Transformation: Be it Talent, Culture, Work or HR

“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.
Hung Lee, (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.

James Brown: "Open up the door - I'll get it myself."
James Brown: "Open up the door - I'll get it myself."
The Power
5 Ways to Help You Unlock the Power of Questions - Fran Peavey
The Power of Simple Questions | Alan Duffy | TEDxYouth@Sydney
The How-To
How to Ask Better Questions | Mike Vaughan | TEDxMileHigh
How to Ask Questions Better | Tim Ferriss
Asking Questions at Work
Why – one of the most powerful questions that professionals should be able to ask
Ask These 4 Empathetic Questions When You’re Struggling To Listen
Asking Questions in Interviews
Stop Eliminating Perfectly Good Candidates by Asking Them the Wrong Questions
The 7 Questions That Will Take Your Reference Calls From Routine to Revealing | LinkedIn Talent Blog
What supports good question-asking at work?
This past week I had the pleasure of chairing a getAbstract networking forum for Learning and Development professionals. The common theme was: how are we creating an environment more open to challenging the status quo, floating alternative practices and making sure there is a clear strategic need before jumping? At the end of the day, the skills and capabilities we need to grow are based in curiosity, an awareness of the changes around us and being able to make good decisions in a complex world, so asking good questions is a key foundation. Therefore my question to you: what supports good question-asking at work?
Next week, I am excited to be running a workshop at the Sourcing Summit in München around fundamentals of good job descriptions. Therefore, my second question to you: what actually makes you stop and look closer at a job ad?
I appreciate your support on crowdsourcing on these two items greatly!
If you are interested to talk more around either of these two things, just hit me up for a chat.
With that, have a great April Fool’s Day on Monday folks!
All my best regards,

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Elizabeth Lembke, Transforming Talent Consulting: and