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(Influential Leadership) Ask Effective Questions

Master The Art of Asking Effective Questions

My last 2 posts discussed the importance of paying attention to someone’s tension (their level of urgency) in order to influence them, and that for someone to act on your idea (or “buy” from you) their tension needs to reach the Threshold of Activation. If they are not taking action, their tension is too low.

If you want to be able to raise someone’s tension so that they take action, ask effective questions.

 

The Power of Questions

What makes asking questions so useful in being influential?

Effective questions are so powerful because you can use them to direct someone’s focus. When you make a statement, it’s easy for a person to check out. Its impact can be limited. On the other hand, when you ask a question, it is almost impossible for their mind to wander – their brain has to come up with an answer, doesn’t it?

Not only will a question cause a person’s mind to seek an answer, but the quality of your questions determine the quality of their answers. This is true any time you ask someone a question.

 

Types of Influential Questions

In general, influential questions are ones that bring the pleasure of taking action or the pain of not taking action to the person’s awareness.

Examples of “Pleasure” Questions That Promote Action:

  • “What do you really want?”
  • “What is the outcome you would like to see?”
  • “What would having that allow you to do that you can’t do today?”
  • “How would that benefit you (or the organization)?”
  • “What gain would implementing this solution yield to the bottom line?”

Examples of “Pain” Questions That Promote Action:

  • “What challenges are getting in the way of us achieving this desired result?”
  • “How are these problems impacting us?”
  • “What are they costing us?”
  • “What’s the impact to the bottom line?”
  • “What will be the situation three years from now if we don’t fix this problem?”

These types of questions focus the person you are trying to influence on the levers that will raise their tension to the Threshold of Activation – the level of urgency where they will take action.

I challenge you over the next week to practice asking effective questions to tap into someone’s motivation to take action.  See what happens and let me know either by leaving a comment here, or by email at John@JHACareers.com.

And if you want to really master this skill, I strongly recommend you pick up a copy of my good friend Dave Miller’s book The Influential Actuary.   Don’t be fooled by the title, the concepts work for all professionals who want to increase their influence.  It will walk you step-by-step through all of the skills you need to become and be seen as an influential leader.

(Contributed by David C Miller.)

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