Episode 1: Asking Powerful QuestionsJan 11, 2022
"Leadership is exponentially better when accompanied by the skill of asking powerful questions." ~Annie Perdue-Olson
I am a problem-solver and decision-maker. Leadership often requires that ability to be decisive and guide groups of people toward solutions.
If you are a problem-solver like me, though, you might be driving to solutions too quickly and people start running to you to solve the problem instead of taking the ball and running with it. That can be tiring!!! And it limits the team’s potential when leaders become a bottleneck to solving problems.
Questions have the power to turn the tables – to change that conversation.
When I married a scientist who makes a living asking questions to find solutions to seemingly unsolvable things, that’s when I saw this question-asking skill in action. He would answer every question with another question. Only problem in a marriage that can be rather irritating. Maybe in leadership, too!
Observing this question-asking skill in my husband was like a confrontation to my well practiced problem solving leadership skills. I felt like it slowed us down every time we were trying to make a decision and get this show on the road. My drive to get to a decision and take action had the potential to make me skip steps or miss out on important information that would help make a better decision.
I’m still the one in the family that runs toward a decision – but maybe I have slowed to a “jog” in an effort to learn from my husband’s wisdom to ask more questions. I actually have become a keen observer of people who ask questions. I admire them and want to become better and better at asking powerful questions that help others move toward their own solutions or decisions.
One of my observations is that Jesus in the gospels asked a lot of powerful questions ….
Expand Self Awareness
You know, those kinds of questions that get people thinking. The ones that turn the mirror around so you see a truer reflection of who you are. These are the kinds of questions create greater self-awareness. They have the power to confront lies with truth, blow up limitations that are holding us back or turn around those false beliefs that keep us trapped.
Like when Jesus said to the man at the pool of Bethesda, “Do you want to be made well?” (John 5:6) or to the two blind men in Matthew 9:28 when Jesus asked, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” In both instances, the questions require the hearer to look inward and do some self-assessment.
Challenge Our Assumptions
Another kind of question that Jesus asked that always gets my attention is those questions when he challenged assumptions. The ones where his questions ticked people off or put them in their place. We are all set in our ways and have our own biases – this is the kind of question that unsettles us. They can be confrontive, yet they are gifts because they shake us out of narrow thinking to broaden our perspective.
Like when Jesus pointed out hypocrisy in the Pharisees about healing on the Sabbath by asking, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or destroy it? (Luke 6:9) OR with the story of the Good Samaritan where he poses the question, “So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” (Lk 10:36). In both situations, Jesus demonstrates the complexity of a situation by sharing a story or a parable and then asks a question that challenges their thinking. It takes compassion and care to use these kinds of questions well and a dose of humility to receive them well – but they can be powerful!
Inviting Others In
Just as much as Jesus used questions to confront, he also used questions to invite people into a deeper relationship or understanding. He asked questions that let the disciples think for themselves – to find their own solutions or recap what they had been learning through an experience. Questions that would lead down the path of deeper knowledge and insight. These kinds of questions are an opportunity for us to grow and to expand our thinking. With these questions, Jesus was able to invite participation instead of telling people what to do or think.
When Jesus was having a conversation with the disciples and he asked, “Who do men say that I am?”,they answered him and then he takes it deeper and asks, “Who do you say that I am?” (Mark 8:27-29). He often used these kinds of inviting questions when he was talking with the disciples.
Let’s Ask More Questions!
I am not saying Jesus always used questions. He gave answers, too. He offered a whole lot of teaching. Sometimes he told the disciples what to do. I’m just amazed at how he used questions so artfully.
As you have probably guessed by now: I am intrigued by questions. I certainly like answers!!! It’s still my default >> and I am learning to enhance my default with more questions.
That’s why I am inviting listeners like you to ask questions so together we can take it deeper and find the questions behind the question. Because, there usually isn’t one right answer, our leadership is not a one-size-fits-all situation. There might be multiple problems to be solved … things that we didn’t see at first. Questioning can help us learn things we didn’t know before. And, don’t forget, we don’t have to do this alone, inviting others on the team to ask questions can help create a learning culture that develops leaders around us
Here’s an assignment for you:
For the next 2 weeks, keep a question journal. Write down questions as they come up – capture them like brainstorming without judgment, without grammar editing, just “brain dump”. If you want to make it extra challenging. Set a daily goal of 5 questions a day. Check in at the end of each week and watch how your questions are evolving as you ask more and more questions.
The better you get at it, the better your solutions will be. One thing I’ve learned from my husband, if you want to solve problems in your sleep >> ask your questions then sleep on it. Give yourself a day to soak in it – see what changes about your perspective or your solution.
So, what questions does this conversation prompt for you about leadership?
Because, this podcast is designed to answer those real-life, feet-on-the-ground kinds of questions that every leader is asking. You want to grow and you want to develop the next level of leaders around you? Let’s ask more questions to get better answers – a one-size-fits-all solution won't work for you. Next episode we will dive into our first question submitted by leaders and listeners like you.
If you have a question you would like to talk about, submit it HERE!
I can not wait to ask more questions together!
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