If you are familiar with coaching programs or have attended personal development training events; the importance of asking effective questions is the main tool that will help a person make critical distinctions that may lead to change. After reviewing dozen of coaching programs and methodologies, the ability to ask questions is at the heart of the practice.
Working with clients, I have noticed the simple yet powerful influence a comprehensive question strategy could have in one’s life and environment.
Any type of turnaround effort requires one to ask a series of questions that will result in a strategy for success. The late Peter Drucker, who is legendary for his ability to save and turnaround organizations, would start his turnaround process with a series of simple questions. After a few round of questions, managers would start to change their perception about a problem and would discover solutions and a state of resourcefulness.
The goal is to ask questions that will help one understand current and future realities; allowing you to reframe and readjust continuously. All those familiar with the history of science are aware that the important advances come with a formulation of new questions. The question(s) is at the root of the breakthrough.
In one case example, a social scientist who studied at-risk populations (populations where high school dropout, teenage pregnancy, crime, gang violence, and substance abuse is a norm) had the right intentions for finding adequate solutions for turning around these environments but successfully missed the mark; their findings and solutions were ineffective. Even though they had the resources and intention for promoting and actualizing change, they failed to make an impact because they were fixated on asking questions that focused on everything surrounding the problems and issues without much attention to anything else.
It was not until someone else stepped in and started to lead a discussion around a set of different questions. They began to ask, “What made people succeed and overcome these circumstances?” “What is about them that made them more successful?”
Stop and think about what the questions did? It created a radical shift in the way they were previously viewing the problem. The question invoked a new level of focus. The questions made the group focus on the few, the outliers, who against the odds, made it out of those circumstances and changed their future and other future of others. They began to examine the characteristics of people who were actually succeeding and discovered innovative ways for positive social changes. A turnaround of any sort must be based on the elements that work. One main characteristic that helped these people succeed was that they were resilient. They were also optimistic. They had faith and a sense of meaning in life. They were idealistic and held a deep sense of purpose. They discovered important traces of success and started implementing new programs that focused on cultivating these attributes in the people living in these at-risk environments.
“We have hidden sensors, blind spots your mind will not let you see.”
The eminent psychologist Ulric Neisser filmed a video of two teams of students passing a basketball back and forth and superimposed another video of a girl with an umbrella walking right through the center of the screen. When he asked the participants in his study to count the number of times the ball was passed, 79 percent failed to notice the girl walking right through the center of the two teams passing the basketball. This experiment has been conducted thousands of times, and even we have tested it in some of our workshops, and the failure rate is as high if not higher than 79 percent. What does this mean? It means that when our attention is occupied with one thing, people often fail to notice other things right before their eyes.
1-Turnaround Your Life with Asking the Right Questions
It is crucial to appreciate what is working. The word appreciate has two meanings. The first meaning is to say thank you for something, not to take it for granted. It is important not to take for granted our virtues, our victories, successes, and wins. On the other side of the coin, appreciation also has a second meaning, and that is to grow. Money appreciates in a bank; your financial assets appreciate on your balance sheet. When we appreciate the good, the good appreciates, the good grows. Let’s flip the coin back, when we don’t appreciate and focus on what’s not good or take things for granted, that depreciates too. In this is what happens after the honeymoon phases in the relationship. There are many benefits for looking for new ways to improve but it’s also important to know what’s good about you now.
In general, people tend to have a negative orientation about the way they approach a problem or issue. We tend to ask what’s wrong, what could we improve? In other words, we think about closing gaps and addresses weakness, but this approach may impede positive momentum.
Though such questions are useful in many areas, the tendency to ask only problem focused questions becomes standardized and the culture norm. On the other side of the question, of what’s wrong, we need to ask what is right ? Where are the signs of strengths ?
Where have we’ve been successful? Keeping a healthy dose of both types of questions will be the ideal in a perfect world.
“Our series of questions is the algorithm of our existence.” Oscar Arias
A resounding question is a dominant question that filters your conscious and unconscious thinking consistently in your life. It becomes your main focus in life. It creates the lens in which you view and determines what you notice and experience in your life. There are countless examples of breakthroughs in science.
In our turnaround sessions, we focus on having those empowering questions be part of your journey in life. Just like the scientist who had all the answers in front of them but they couldn’t solve them until they started to ask the right questions. We need to focus more on what’s working in your life and start there. The questions we ask, determine our quest, our destination, and the way we experience life.
In our programs, we ask our clients to focus on their primary question before the start of their leadership development or coaching process. Here is a small example of some of the questions we ask our clients to ask themselves: “What is your primary focus these days? If there was a primary question that guides your entire life, that dictates your attention if life, what would it be? What questions do you ask most often that drives the majority of your behavior? ”
Next we often give our clients homework where they will journal and reflect of the theme of their questions until they arrive to new sequence of questions. The transformation we’ve seen has been remarkable. We challenge you to discover the questions you’ve been asking of yourself, others and your world.
For the next three days, develop three or more questions you’re going to ask yourself every morning, or while you’re working out or before you go to bed at night. Remember to ask questions that will promote positive emotions and allow your mind to expand into a new realm of possibilities. Try asking questions that start with “what” or “how” and then start getting creative. Some samples questions we’ve used is “What am I grateful for today?” or “How could I appreciate more love, health, and abundance in my life now” or “ What am I committed to accomplishing this week no matter what ?” “What did I learn today that will add more value to my life or career? Or “What is the best thing I can do right now to support myself and others?
“The path to mastery is cemented on graces of repetition.” Oscar Arias
Once you have developed these questions, it is your responsibility to ask these questions as many this as possible. The path you will take, the life you will lead whether it’s individually or interpersonally or if it’s organizationally is based on the power of your questions.