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Why And How To Ask Powerful Questions

If I told you there was a way to be a better leader AND be someone who works less but gets more done, you’d want to know more, right?

OK, here goes. And at the end, I’ve got a resource to further support you.

Much of business is about solutions. That’s our achievement mindset.

You’re tasked with finding solutions, creating solutions, and generally being solution-focused.

With all this task-driven achievement people can often think that questions are the opposite of solutions. And therefore, in some way, bad. We’ve all had the boss who yells something back at us like, ‘I don’t have time for questions! Just get it done!’ Perhaps, you’ve done the same.

Brainstormed Questions Created Instagram

Consider the case of Instagram. In this article on the early days of the company — actually titled “Brainstorm questions, not solutions” — Kevin Systrom and his co-founders talk about one of their first steps. They sat down and wrote every problem with mobile photography, attaching question after question to the issues. These areas rose to the top:

  • Lackluster photos

  • Lengthy upload times

  • Shareability

The brainstormed questions led to an app that changed the face of photography, was acquired by Facebook, and has 500 million active users. If you’re a person motivated by money, Kevin Systrom is now worth $400 million, if not more. Before he sat down and brainstormed questions? He was worth a lot less.

Powerful Questions Get Valuable Intel

There’s been much research on the power of effective questions at work. For example: 88 percent of the most-rewarded and appreciated business projects begin with a question: “What difference could I make that other people would love?” And while we spend thousands on technology and research designed to capture employee ideas, one of the most deceptively simple ways I've found to gather employee intel is just to ask them smart questions. Do you ask?

Curiosity May Have Killed The Cat But It Enlivens The Leader

The power of asking questions is also tied to this idea: curiosity. Some have argued curiosity is more important than intelligence in a business context. Why? Curious people — who tend to ask more questions about process, expectation and broader purpose — are more comfortable with ambiguity. Modern business environments are often rooted in ambiguity, so having teams comfortable with that is an advantage.

How To Ask Better Questions

Now comes the hard part: as a leader how do you ask better questions? Take the #coach approach.

This is where I can help. I did a webinar entitled ‘3 Step Coaching Formula For Non-Coaches.’ I shared a formula I’ve devised in working with clients. The three steps are:

  • Stop giving advice

  • Ask, don’t tell

  • Follow the 80/20 rule

Oh, I also revealed my ‘bonus’ step called W.A.I.T. Yep, that’s an acronym. It stands for something you’ve probably thought a few times about yourself — and probably your boss too.

Why am I talking?

Edit that to “Why am I still talking?” if you’d like.

Modern Leaders Know Coaching Questions Get Results

Coaching is about adopting modern leadership practices, being a better listener and asking the right questions. Whereas, old school leadership is about driving for solutions and practicing command and control. Essentially telling others what to do.

And you know how I feel about that: It’s the wrong approach.

As for the ‘work less, get more done’ concept I mentioned above: coaching, rooted in questions, dialogue and mindful listening, has been shown to more effectively empower teams in hundreds of research studies.

When you more effectively empower teams, you’re essentially delegating the way delegation should be done. And that's been shown to be tied to higher earnings (yay). You’re achieving more (money, tasks completed) but personally doing less. As Tina Fey might say, ‘I want to go to there.’

I've got 2 resources for you. 1. on asking better questions, and 2. on the ‘3 Step Coaching Formula For Non-Coaches.’ The questions resource covers how to ask questions and gives you a list of good coaching questions.

Grab them both from the Coaching For Female Leaders App.


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