Leaders, How Do You Create More Powerful Questions?

Do your powerful questions spur your team’s creativity?Do your powerful questions spur your team’s creativity?

I believe the most successful leaders I work with use powerful questions to help lead their teams. For entrepreneurs, it is critical to know how to get the best out of the people you work with.

If you want to develop the people around you for their next level of responsibility, you must be willing to ask great questions. Powerful questions can help empower and engage your team members’ creativity!

I’ve shared appreciative inquiry with you in the past. I believe its positive approach to the world allows you to work with many different generations in your workplace. To make Appreciative Inquiry work, you must begin with positive assumptions about what is happening in a given situation. Powerful questions are the foundation of this change and growth process.

I believe Appreciative Inquiry provides a positive framework for growth and change, both for the individual and the organization.  I use it with many of my clients because it helps them get out of their day to day activities and into creating the future of their dreams.  It’s much more fun for me to work with people who are creating their own destiny.

This is the three step process I use to create more powerful questions. The first step is I invest time in coming up with my initial questions. Too many people struggle to change the way people think but invest little time in determining how to help others through the process.

During the construction stage I look to develop questions that align with the goals I’m try to achieve.  If you ask yes/no, which, and who questions, you limit how people can respond to your questions. By asking where, what, how and why you get people to begin to expand their thinking.

When dealing with many engineers and technology professionals, I have found if you ask a closed ended question at the beginning of the conversation you get uninspired answers. By asking open ended questions, you get people to begin to open up. These questions also remove your own biases in a given situation.  After asking questions to get people to open up, the most powerful question I use when working with my senior leaders is what if, you may be surprised at the responses you get.

The second step in my process for developing more powerful questions is I determine the scope of the questions I’m asking. I start by asking questions that are narrower in scope at the beginning. My intention is to widen as I ask a series of questions.

Sometimes when dealing with marketers, product managers, or sales professionals, I start wider and then focus down to specific activities or action steps that help them get the desired results they want. I try to make this decision before I begin talking with the team.  It allows me to remain more focused on the desired outcome from our conversations.

The final step in my process for developing more powerful questions is I decide what assumptions we make when asking questions.  Most questions have either explicit or implicit assumptions built into them. As team facilitator, it’s important that I understand the assumptions other team members take into account when answering the questions.

Now that we have a good understanding of the things we need to do before we ask our powerful questions. I suggest that you consider how many questions and how much time is required to cover each of your questions. Many leaders fail because they have not decided how much time is spent on each question or stage of the process. They have several questions planned and they only get through the first one or two.  It seems counterintuitive, but I find by putting an agenda together in advance helps me cover the key issues that need to be resolved in our meetings.

So how do you know if you’ve created powerful questions? Here are several qualities to see how powerful your questions really are.

  • Is your question thought provoking? Does the person need to reflect before answering the question?
  • Do your powerful questions expand the possibilities or focus attention?
  • Do your powerful questions help you better understand the assumptions that are being made?
  • Do your powerful questions stimulate people to use their creativity?
  • Do your powerful questions make your team more curious, or less?
  • Is there a natural flow to your questions?
  • Finally, do your powerful questions move the team to taking action?

If you invest time in creating powerful questions, you may be surprised how quickly you can get things done on your teams. Powerful questions can help you achieve extraordinary results when dealing with others.

Next week, we share strategies on how to get more sales in the last six weeks of the year. See you then.

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