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The Power of Questions We Don't Answer

Here's one short leadership coaching tip you can action immediately. Today's post takes about 3 minutes to read. This is a great example of what leadership is.


The Tip


Agreement in teams can be difficult at times.

Do you aim for consensus? Or maybe for unanimity? Do the loudest voices get their way?

What happens when you sense that something isn't being said? When maybe the introverts are not speaking up?

When this happens, ask each member of the team in-turn to complete this sentence: "What I am wondering is...?"

Don't ask for answers to the questions, just for the questions themselves.

When I tried this with a group recently, the answers ranged from an enthusiastic "I'm wondering how we'll cope with all the success?" to a cautious "I'm wondering if I can we can really cope with this?"

Following a short discussion, we were able to see a shared path that everyone understood.

How it Works

There are two elements to the success of this technique.

Firstly, by framing statements as questions, people feel safer airing their doubts in a group and people don't feel offended by negative views.

For example, how different do these two sentences feel?

"I don't think this will work" versus "I am wondering if this will work?".

The first statement is closed. You agree or you don't. And you judge the speaker as agreeing or disagreeing with you.

The second is open. It invites curiosity and empathy. You want to know more. But they are saying the same thing, right?

Secondly, by taking turns to ask a question, and not rushing to answer them, the group gets to hear all the ideas (and doubts) of the group without falling into fixed positions.

It works like magic for creating shared understanding.

So, if you use it, you'll be a team-building magician 🧙‍♂️🧙‍♀️

If You Are Working in a Team

This is a really easy technique to use. And you don't need to be leading a team to suggest it. Try opening with a phrase like "can we try a new way of hearing everyone's views? I got it off a coaching expert I've been following."

The second part of that is written entirely with a cheeky smile by me 😃.

But who can resist a suggestion like that?

All you then have to do is explain that everyone needs to complete the phrase "What I am wondering is...?" Perhaps give them a few seconds to think before you start.

The only challenging bit is that it is crucial that you take turns to speak and that you don't answer any questions until everyone has spoken.

You will have to facilitate that, with a smile of course. That always helps. You can borrow mine if you like 😃.

Once everyone has aired a question, you might go round the group again, searching for answers. Or you might try summarising it with "what I am hearing is..."

Either way, everyone will know what everyone thinks and you'll feel much better connected. Oh, and you'll be super popular.

As you should be 🧙‍♂️🧙‍♀️

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