Incorporating Powerful Questions


Incorporating “What” is Behind the Powerful Questions:

By framing the right questions, leaders can inspire accountability

Author: Jim Milner, MBA, BCLC, MCC

As a Mentor Master Certified Coach serving leaders in transition, I am often asked how and when one should ask the “Powerful Question.” I find that the asking of this question in-and-of-itself, is thought-provoking, which, I understand, is the essence of what makes a question powerful. As a result, what I am learning over time is that effective questioning is the key to deep learning. Asking questions offers balance when content is being shared about the “who,” the “what,” the “when” and the processing of the “how” and the “why.” In addition, I have learned to view powerful questions as a pathway to increased exploration during a coaching engagement and discovering innovation for taking ownership.

When I am asked how to create a powerful question, I suggest that one listen to the beliefs and the emotions behind the words being shared during a scenario presentation. By allowing oneself to be fully present for another, new discoveries can be derived from the emotions, personal interest and values statements. These attributes trigger questions motivated by curiosity that has meaning to what is driving the person with less focus on the problem itself as articulated in the scenario.

In past engagements, I have discovered that personal truths, assumptions and beliefs generally dominate the communication space during a coaching session. By listening with intention and impact, I am fully present to ask a question that speaks to the person, the kind of question that inspires, evokes, motivates, and generates discovery and personal ownership. In that context, the following are questions are a good fit.

  1. What is true for you now?
  2. What do you believe about this situation?
  3. What assumptions are you making that make this situation seem impossible?
  4. What don’t you know about that assumption?
  5. What are the leverage points that might make it possible?

This kind of focused thinking about questions helps encourage one to see questions as a tool for learning and discovery. Moreover, this focus allows for unbiased presence during the one-to-one engagement, especially when the word “what” is used to frame the questions. A number of thought leaders in the coaching space have suggested that of the many options available to frame a question, the one offering that is most relevant is the use of the word “What”. With the right energy (tone) and framing (question approach), this can be a recipe for great questions. What needs to change for this tool to be in your tool kit?

Jim Milner is a speaker, trainer and leadership coach, ICF Master Certified Coach, Founder and Managing Director for Sector Management Consulting Group LLC, co-author of the Leadership Program Leading with the Personal Power of Intent, expanding leaders personally and professionally during transition. Jim has over 30 years of experience as a facilitator in strategic planning and evaluation, workforce development consulting, operating/leading businesses and organizational systems and leadership coaching.

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