To Really Learn What’s Going On…

Last month I talked about the use of open ended questions to connect with people. This month to really learn what is going on with someone or what is happening in a given situation try using powerful questions.

Powerful questions are a way of getting to the heart of what’s important and causes the responder to stop and really think, not just react. Powerful questions stop the responder from their routine answers and send them to a place of rich exploration about themselves or the situation. When asked they often lead to silence as the responder reflects and contemplates. Sometimes they will reply by saying ‘good question’ in an attempt to fill the silence.

Powerful questions are about the other person, these questions are a way of getting below the surface to uncover something that may not have been articulated before, or even thought of previously. They peel back the layers of the onion.

Typically powerful questions are open ended, short, simple (yet profound), direct, start with WHAT and sometimes HOW.
What do you mean? What about that is important to you?
Who do you need to be to get this done? What will make this easy?
What’s another way this could be? What are you feeling about this?
What’s the payoff for you in this? What else?
What next? Tell me more
So what? What’s your big picture here?
What needs to be present for you to achieve this?
What do you need from me to accomplish this?
What is present when you are working at your best?

And one of my favourites as a results-oriented coach is: “What do you want to be accountable for between now and next time we talk?” This allows the responder to create their own action plan and therefore be totally accountable for it. It results in very clear articulation of what is going to happen so nothing gets lost in the dialogue. It’s a form of taking personal responsibility. It’s a great way to end most action-oriented discussions or meetings. (Now, I would be remiss in saying that as a coach I always just agree with what they outline as
their accountabilities, I have been known to challenge and stretch people further for their benefit). Powerful questions help you understand a situation, lessen the risk of making inaccurate assumptions, allow someone else to be heard and they often help the responder learn more about themselves.

What situations would benefit from you asking powerful questions?
Live your potential. 

By Anne Taylor for DIRECTions Coaching in London.