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The Power of Questions

The success of every civilization, whether in terms of spirituality, humanity, inventions and discoveries can be mapped out by the quality of the questions asked.

Every transformational leader uses questions to drive the strategic dialog with his or her teams.

Let’s explore how we can create the right questions:

1. Define the present state
“What are we doing today and why now?”

Often organizations get too involved in charting out new strategies and initiatives without questioning the legacy work that’s still being done. No strategic way forward can be defined unless we first establish the current status.

2. Align with broader goals
“How does that align with our goal or big picture?”

Every activity defined in our scope of work should bring us closer to the organizational goal — whether it’s about bringing value to your customers or streamlining a process or raising team morale. The nature and priority of each role should be defined in the context of the organizational goal. This question will also help you determine the importance and immediacy of each issue.

3. Determine changes if any
“What has changed in the last few months/weeks?”

This question is a powerful investigative tool and will force your team to re-assess the situation at hand, uncover changes, and make the necessary course adjustments to respond to the changing environment.

4. Pay close attention to the responses
“What do the responses reflect?”

Listen carefully to not only the content but also the specific choice and intonation of the words your team uses to describe the situation or challenge. Taking notes is a good idea, for they can play a crucial role in revealing hidden insights and defining your future strategy. Refrain from immediate judgment or reaction. Your role while asking questions is only to dispassionately gather as much information as possible.

5. Define the desired state
“What would an ideal solution look like to you?” “What does success look like for our team?

Every organization has criteria to measure success. Success is defined by not just meeting the objective but is also defined by the processes, actions, behaviors, relationships, and outcomes achieved to reach the objective. This question creates a conduit from your present situation to your desired future state.

6. Be open to solutions
“What can we do? What are our options?

Every solution offered by your team, however seemingly insignificant, can play a critical part in adding another facet to the situation or prompt another set of solutions. Some solutions will be feasible, while others will be a stretch, but they can lead you to another idea. As such, do not reject any solution for now.

9. Dig Deeper
“What else can we do to achieve more, better, faster?”

The term ‘what else’ challenges your team to think more, do more and do it more efficiently and effectively. You might be tempted to jump directly to this question. But if you haven’t asked the preceding set of questions, you might come up with an incoherent stream of ideas that might not reveal any true way forward.

10. Articulate the expected impact in graphic detail
“If we can resolve this, how would that impact our outcome?” “How would this solution change us?”

Once you have defined the desired state, this question further clarifies the impact of that state in terms of benefits and outcomes for each team member.

The more proficient you get in asking the right questions, the better placed you are to drive success for your team and your organization.

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