The Art of Asking Powerful Questions

The art of asking inquiring, challenging, powerful questions is one of the most fundamental differentiators of leadership. They challenge our basic assumptions and create awareness of patterns and connections.

Powerful Questions

Powerful questions explore intentions, values, convictions, hopes, ambitions and possibilities. The quality of the questions you ask not only demonstrates an openness and curiosity for learning, a thirst for knowledge and an interest in the subject. It can also unpack the underlying drivers of situation build rapport, expose vulnerabilities or risks and identify creative opportunities.

As we get older we tend to limit our view of the world we know, we blinker the areas of skill, experience, knowledge and subject matter expertise and tend to ignore, block or avoid areas we know little about.

The more curious and inquiring approach that children use to learn is the same characteristic seen with genius minds able to consider much bigger questions. So what happens to most of us, do we forget how to ask questions?

As we get older the question muscle gets weak. Questions not only have an explanatory power, they also have an influencing quality. The questions we ask are based on what we see, they expose what we pay attention to.

“Organizations gravitate toward the questions they ask”

David Cooperrider – American Founder of Appreciative Inquiry 2010

Thus the questions we are asking has an impact on our teams and other people in our organisations. The nature of the questions determines the culture and development of the organisation.

Powerful Questions
Source: Leading with Questions

An MIT research project by Chilean psychologist Marcial Losada and organisational behavioural researcher Emily Heaphy explored the concept of communication in business teams and their performance. They found that high performing teams had a higher degree of curiosity and openness which contributed to the level of team performance. Further they concluded that these groups added significant benefit from learning and collaboration which added value in identifying creative synergies.

Johansen goes on to explain the Four Question Model

Four Question Model

There are two dimensions the vertical axis indicates if the intention of the question is to clarify or develop. The horizontal axis indicates if the question is based on past, present or future performance.

Clarifying questions are normally linear logic and are based on cause and effect. Developing questions are based on circular assumptions and a logic of sustainability.

Key Takeaways

  • The art of asking questions is a differentiator for leaders, creatives and innovators, it opens the mind to possibilities.
  • As we get older we tend to restrict ourselves to the domains we are most confident about, reducing our curiosity, learning and creativity.
  • There are techniques to build development oriented questions that invite us to be curious, explore and remove our blinkers.
Synopsis of an article from Leading With Questions
The Art of Asking Powerful Questions | excerpted from Chapter Two of “Leadership for Sustainability Powered by Questions” by Thomas Johansen, Thomas Specht and Henry Kleive
by Thomas Johansen
Published: 8th October 2020

You can purchase “Leadership for Sustainability Powered by Questions” book or eBook today by clicking HERE

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