Untangle and grow

A blog by Alison Maxwell

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

The Killer Question

The Art and Architecture of the Powerful Question

You've heard about the ‘killer question’- it’s that one knock-out question that will unlock our coaching client, springing them neatly into expanded awareness, sustained behavioural change and purposeful action. Sadly I have yet to come across such a question – at least not one that is guaranteed to work on all occasions and with all clients -  so forgive me for a dollop of scepticism on this subject! My ‘best’ questions seem to arise in the moment from my own curiosity and are often the simplest. Having said this however, I do know that some questions are more powerful than others – asking ‘what are you doing at the weekend?’ is patentedly different from ‘what are you doing with your life?’.

I came across an interesting analysis of the 'architecture' of  powerful questions which suggests that we coaches should pay attention to three aspects of our questioning if we want them to be impactful:

·   Depth – do we tend to ask surface questions of fact or deeper questions of feeling, meaning and purpose? A ‘why’ questions is always going to be more powerful than a ‘when’ or ‘where’ question - even if you have to ask it more carefully.
· Breadth – do we ask big enough questions? Are we interested in just the 'weekend' or the 'life'? Do we ask questions just about the presenting issue or about the systemic context?
· Hidden assumption– if all questions contain an assumption (discuss!) do we help our clients to unpick the assumptions inherent in the questions they are asking themselves and perhaps find a better question

Would love to hear your favourite ‘killer question’...

Click here for a copy of ‘The art of powerful questions’ by Vogt, Brown and Isaacs (2003)

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