The key to success is not about having the right answers; it’s about having the right questions. Neuroscience has shown us that the brain makes complex connections which result in powerful ah-ha’s. These ah-ha’s are triggered through questions. You will increase commitment and improve the outcome of any situation when you stop giving advice and start asking powerful questions.
Powerful questions help focus thinking. When you get focused on thinking you can create breakthrough answers. For example, ask “how can I best help you think about this?” versus “why did this happen?”
Tips for improving your questions:
- Focus on solutions – Remove “why” from your questions because it creates a problem mindset rather than a solution mindset. Focusing on the problem leads to the past. Focusing on the solution moves the situation forward into the future.
- Pay attention to the assumptions – asking “when are you going to stop yelling at your team?” implies that you are yelling. Many times the way a question is worded is more of a statement than a request for information or insight. Do your questions hammer others with your assumptions or are you genuinely curious?
- Accentuate the positive – during an average lifetime, people receive more criticism than positive feedback. Research shows that you get more of what you reward. Pointing out the positive means greater ah-ha’s from your powerful questions.
- Differentiate between fiction and fact – ask “what evidence do you have that this is true?” Often there are layers of emotion and unconfirmed beliefs that get in the way of what’s really going on. It’s amazing what gets uncovered when you separate fact from fiction (or speculation.) Focus on the facts and skip past the fiction.
Above all else, when you ask a powerful question, make sure that you listen. Asking powerful questions helps people focus on solutions instead of problems. We need to give up our desire to find behaviors to fix, and become fascinated with identifying and building on people’s strengths.