“The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge.”

Thomas Berger

Questions: The Gift of Learning

I love good questions. They are awesome, powerful tools to invoke insight and frankly, asking the right questions should be a competency of all leaders.

Questions challenge assumptions.

They help you think, they help you get to the bottom of situations, and if you’re honest with your answers, they may even scare you a bit.

Engaging conversations are sparked by great questions. People don’t ask enough questions and if they do, they’re generally mundane questions. And if you are going “to do questions right”, you have to be prepared to listen, really listen to the answers.

Why are questions so important?

Because it gives you the gift of learning.

You learn about your client, your boss, your employee, or maybe a friend. Questions enable you to connect. Questions truly are a gift in conversation.

Good Questions Do These Things

1. Help problem solving by using critical thinking skills – One of the most effective ways to approach any problem is to ask questions about it. You keep asking ‘why’ until you get to the core issue. Skillful use of inquiry is the cornerstone of critical thinking. Great thinkers don’t get embarrassed to ask seemingly immature questions. The basic questions can often be the most effective because it’s the simple ones that are more prone to be overlooked.

2. Help shift perspective to solutions – Questions trigger creative thinking skills. They give you an opportunity to conceptualize a more investigative approach which lends itself to new insights.

For example, take a statement such as “Ways to Improve My Career” and turn it into a question like “In what ways can I improve my career?”, or “Where are the opportunities for improving my current career? Reframing self-limiting situations as questions put you in the driver’s seat by directing your focus on solutions and not just thoughts.

3. Better leadership through collaboration – Questions are a great way to stimulate your employees’ thinking. If used skillfully, they work better than just telling someone what to do or filling their head with ideas. It’s a method of collaborative exploration.

For example ask: “What would happen if we (fill in the blank)?”, “What solutions can we see here?” “What else have we not thought of”, “What do you think we should do and why?”

4. Create meaningful conversation – Questions are the glue of genuine dialogue. They energize conversations and they invite people to participate and to share insights and opinions. When you use them properly, people will be an active participate. They feel listened to and will be much more likely to engage in meaningful and productive conversations.

5. Self-Reflection – Questions help us examine and explore our inner passions. They help us connect our life pursuits with what really matters (if we’re honest with ourselves).


Some Favorite Questions

Here are a list of some favorite thought-provoking questions, particularly as it relates to goal setting and obstacles. How do you answer these?

  • Why don’t you do the things you know you should be doing? Life isn’t always about thinking about what to do. The real challenge is doing the things we know we should be doing.
  • What are you pretending not to know? Are we deceiving ourselves by pretending ignorance?
  • What did I learn today? What made me feel good? What didn’t I like?Every day gives us new opportunities for growth and education.
  • If you weren’t so afraid, what would you do? This gives you a look at what limitations you put on your life.
  • What can you do today to improve? Constant, incremental improvement is the secret to achieving the greatest of feats. One step at a time; one day at a time.
  • What’s the one most important thing to get done today/ this week/month? If it’s important, hold yourself accountable for completing it.
  • If you achieve this goal, will it bring lasting fulfillment or temporary pleasure? This helps you determine why you are doing something and the motivation you will have as you do it.
  • Does your current environment (friends, support system, job, etc.) fully support who you’re becoming? When it comes to your support system, they will be paramount as you work toward goals.
  • Do you want this for its own sake or are you trying to avoid something else? What’s the real motivation here?
  • What would have to happen for you to be able to achieve that? This helps you think through obstacles you might face.
  • Who could help you achieve that? – Achievements are rarely accomplished alone.
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