June 27, 2022


"There are no right answers to wrong questions." -- Ursula Le Guin

Effective team leaders sometimes suffer from the "monkey on the back syndrome" -- taking on other people's problems when, in fact, they need to be helping those other people solve their own problems.

One way to do this can be as simple as asking the right question at the right time. This gives the "problem dumper" a chance to step back, reflect, and think differently about their challenge -- a creative pause that increases the likelihood of them solving their own problem or, at the very least, taking responsibility for it instead of expecting you to be the savior.

Knowing what kind of question to ask a person in distress is an art, but it can be easily learned. What follows is a menu of questions for you to consider selecting from whenever anyone approaches you with a problem, frustration, or complaint and the expectation that it is YOUR job to save the day.

-- "Can you tell me more about the situation?"
-- "What have you already done to address this problem?"
-- "How can you phrase your challenge as a How Can I question?"
-- "What have you already tried that's worked? What hasn't worked?"
-- "Sounds like you have some choices before you. Which feels right?"
-- "Who, on your team, might you invite to brainstorm this with you?"
-- "Imagine your problem gets solved. What does success look like?"
-- "What's the simplest way to proceed?"
-- "What obstacles are in your way and how can you resolve them?"
-- "Imagine you knew the answer to your question. What would it be?"
-- "What are your instincts telling you about how to proceed?"
-- "What support, if any, do you need from me?"
-- "What is your next step and when will you take it?"

Lady in Box2.jpg

15 quotes on asking the right question
Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at June 27, 2022 08:31 PM

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