Change Your Questions, Change Your Life (Part 1)

September 18, 2012

Ask QuestionsAsking great questions is what, CO2 Partners founder Gary Cohen is known for, and he is not alone in his remarkable approach to leadership. In this series of posts, I will be diving into “Change Your Questions, Change Your Life” by Marilee Adams, MSW, Ph.D. She offers 10 very powerful tools to improve communication–both personally and professionally by how you ask questions. Today, I’ll focus on the first two tools.

Tool 1:  Empower Your Observer with how you Ask Questions

Most of us have the gift of two eyes and two ears–yet one mouth. The ratio suggests we should spend more time observing and listening than talking. And yet, after minimal observing and listening, we often feel like we’ve seen and heard enough. We enter JUDGER mode easily and quickly.

What is your first reaction when a direct report poses a new idea? Do you go into analysis mode and find reasons why the idea won’t work? Do you question the motives of the employee? Do you immediately try to square the idea with the corporate culture? If this is your default mode, you need to empower your inner OBSERVER.

OBSERVER mode helps you see (and hear) the whole picture. In observer mode, you calm yourself, free yourself of judgement, and focus your eyes and ears on the presenter.

When a direct report poses a new idea, here are some OBSERVER questions you might ask:

  • How might this idea benefit my coworker, me, and the organization?
  • How might my coworker or I learn more about this topic?
  • What prompted the desire for a new approach?

The OBSERVER mode allows you to explore possibilities. The JUDGER mode cuts off possibilities; it focuses more on problems than solutions.

Tool 2:  Use the Choice Map™ as a Guide to Ask  Questions more Effectively

The Choice Map is a handy tool to assist you in, well, making choices. It is not hard to find yourself on the JUDGER path. We have all been there and most likely we will be there again. Being on that path, however, is a choice–part of our free will. With practice, and a bit of self awareness, you can feel yourself on the JUDGER path. You’re on the JUDGER path if you find yourself thinking or saying the following:Ask Questions
  • What is he/she thinking?
  • That is a dumb idea.
  • Will he/she ever learn to adapt to this culture?

Now, make a different choice. Empower your OBSERVER and ask different questions and form different comments:

  • What do I want?
  • What are the facts and what are the opinions?
  • How can I view this as a win-win?
  • What do I need to do to help the other person succeed?

Put a copy of the Choice Map in clear view of your work space. You will learn to recognize when you are on the JUDGER path and can work to get yourself back on track.


Related Posts on How to Ask Questions More Effectively

Change Your Questions, Change Your Life (Part 2)

Change Your Questions, Change Your Life (Part 3)

Change Your Questions, Change Your Life (Part 4)

Change Your Questions, Change Your Life (Part 5)

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