In guiding people, be it as a preacher, tribal chief, leader, manager or coach, we all use elements from the same repertoire: stories (be they personal or not), positive examples, cautionary tales, advice, suggestions and, the most powerful tool to direct attention: questions.
Knowing this, we, as coaches and trainers of coaches, need to question ourselves about the questions we use: which are the most useful? What direction is it worth to send the client’s mind chasing? How are the best questions formulated? What will change for our clients when we vary our questioning style?
In the same way, any leader of people will come to the point where they move from simply asking “What is there to do? How do we do it? Why has it not been done yet? Why did things not work as planned?” to asking themselves “What are the questions that will elicit the best reaction from my team?”
So, here are some questions about questions
- In which directions do you, as a leader, want your people to invest their mental efforts?
- What are the pre-suppositions that underlie the questions you ask?
- What could change if you changed the way you ask questions to your subordinates, peers and superiors?
We invite you to ponder over the differences between a problem-oriented style of questioning and the Solution Focused questioning style and, why not make a mental experiment on yourself, with a current challenging task you are working on.
For example, as I took the task to take care of this blog, I am extremely unhappy with “not finding its voice”. Every post feels like a struggle. I could ask myself “Why is it not working? Why am I so stupid? What is wrong?”. i did and I answered, because, if I know how to do something, that is analyze myself into the ground and bury all hope six feet under criticism.
So then, my colleague Ian Peatey, who offered to proofread this post, said indeed, he too felt it was very impersonal, as if anyone could have written it. He also complimented my ability to usually express myself with humor and elegance..
See what he did there? He reminded me of a resource I knew I had. No advice, no tips and tricks, not a gratuitous compliment, either, like saying „ but you are doing a great job, just try harder”.
So, remembering that there are some resources I can use, the question became “How can I activate this resource I have previously proved to have and finally be happy doing this task?”
So then, I took it from there with more questions:
If, by miracle, this post got a voice how would I notice that?
I would notice because there would be something in it that no one else could have put in there but me.
It would still feel Solution Focuse-y , not like something I could have written on any other page.
How would you know its “Solution Focuse-y”?
It would feel brave but in a light, funny way – no struggle.
So, what could be the smallest step you could take to reach this personal and Solution Focuse-y way to write on the blog?
Give a personal example, maybe.
So here it is.
For more ideas about questions to use, we suggest reading „The Art of Asking Great Questions” (Published in The International Journal of Mentoring & Coaching, Vol. IV Issue 2 (September 2006) by Jenny Clarke & Dr. Sabine Dembkowski). The authors discuss this issue and advocate for the Solution Focused (SF) Methodology as a way to invest the energy of answering where it’s best spent, giving some specific examples of questions in the process, as well.
Our guess is that, after using some of the questions in a solitary experiment, you will want to get a better mastery and some time to practice. Our `Solution Building` course could be just the opportunity you are looking for.