The same question, without trust between the other person and me, might have fallen flat. The intention and purpose of our questions, as viewed by the other person, impacts the impact and value of the question greatly.
Why do I open with this point in an article promising to share 7 great questions?
Because the questions themselves aren’t enough – the context, purpose and delivery all play a role in their effectiveness. The questions I will share with you here, as promised, can be extremely powerful – and when you read them you will agree. But they become even more powerful when they are used with the intent to help support and serve others, and when they are asked often.
With those important caveats, let’s get on with the questions!
How can I help? This is part of a family of questions that is all about determining what or how you can help others succeed. When we ask this question we are seen as supportive, helpful and open. This question asked earnestly also builds trust, especially if you take action on the answer people give you.
What is your goal? Whether you use the word goal, objective, purpose or some other related word, this question serves at least two strong purposes. It can help people clarify their focus, and perhaps recalibrate their actions based on their answer. And it tangibly shows you care about them and their success.
If not now, when? Like with all of these questions, it isn’t hard to see this question as a veiled threat or being designed to embarrass or denigrate people. That isn’t the reason this question makes the list! To succeed at higher levels we often need people to push us to action and defy procrastination. This question can help do that as well as help with prioritization.
What leads you to that decision/opinion? This question helps people see how their perceptions, inferences and assumptions influence their thinking. By helping people step back for a second and think about this more clearly, we can help them make better decisions and get better results.
What would wow your Customer? Everyone has a Customer – in our professional life and in our personal lives too. We might call them something else (student, patient, Client, etc.), and we might not use the word “Wow” (you might use delight, exceed their expectations, etc.), but none of that changes the point of this question. We all need to be reminded who we are delivering our work product to, and what they need or desire from us. This question helps keep that focus clear.
What is your recommendation? To start, this question gives you great information and input. Beyond that this question signals to people that you want their opinion and ideas. If you ask this question (as with the rest), make sure you really listen to their answers. Asking doesn’t guarantee you will take their advice, but it does encourage thinking about solutions, not just identifying problems.
How can you influence the outcome? This is the powerful question of accountability. When we ask people this question, especially in a challenging situation, we encourage them to move past blame and being a victim and on to taking the actions that they can take.
And as a bonus – a statement that operates as question, even though it technically isn’t one. . .
Tell me more . . . I know it isn’t a question, but in a conversation, it can be a powerful way to encourage the other person to keep talking, share more, and uncover feelings and solutions.
I am sure you see how these questions apply to us as a supervisor/manager/leader, but they also apply to us as a parent, spouse, neighbor and friend. I encourage you to start with the best intentions and ask these questions of more people more often. If you do, you will help them grow, learn more yourself, build trust and strengthen relationships.