Business Growth & Strategy

Asking power questions

What results in a better discussion, a question or an assertion?

According to Socrates, the Greek philosopher famous for developing the Socratic method, engaging in dialogue that’s based on asking and answering questions results in a better understanding of an idea, issue or situation.

For instance, instead of saying, “We need to improve our customer service!” we might ask, “How is our customer service impacting customer retention, size of purchases and referral rates?”

We know that in sales, you’re more likely to succeed with a prospect by looking him/her in the eye and asking questions about his/her business, rather than reading slides and talking about your own company.

Similarly, the key to great leadership, especially when coaching, is to ask insightful questions.

Power Questions: Build Relationships, Win New Business and Influence Others is a book that will stimulate your thinking. Andrew Sobel and Jerold Panas focus on how great questions:

  • Invite others to contribute their expertise
  • Draw out others’ experiences
  • Clarify the meaning of words
  • Encourage thinking through issues
  • Solicit solutions from others
  • Enable others to gain self-confidence
  • Synthesize issues and see the big picture

The authors identify 337 questions to help you succeed at life and work, with detailed analysis of two dozen questions. Here are a few samples:

  1. To better understand someone: “What in your life has given you the greatest fulfillment? How did you get started in this business?”
  2. To get superior performance: “Is this the best you can do?” (Allegedly, Henry Kissinger asked this question of someone several times, and when the person finally said, “yes”, he said “good, now I’ll read it.”)
  3. To encourage someone to bring up a subject of importance to them: “What question haven’t I asked?”
  4. To delve into a person’s psyche: “What was the most difficult question you’ve ever been asked?”
  5. When making a tough decision about how to confront someone who has made a questionable decision, ask yourself, “If the circumstances were turned around, how would I like to be treated?”

Whether you are a leader or are coaching leaders, it’s worth the effort to think more deeply about asking better questions. More profound questions lead to more thoughtful answers, which lead to more growth and better results.

What is the most insightful new question you will begin to ask?

Category: Business Growth & Strategy Communication & Alignment Leadership


About the Author: Jerry Cahn

Jerry Cahn, Ph.D. J.D.  chairs Vistage CEO and Trusted Advisor groups in New York, is a Vistage Workshop Speaker on a number of topics, including a new one for Vistage groups and corporate clients called “Job #1: Build a Culture that Unleash…

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