There is a ton of material out there regarding powerful (effective) questions specifically in the Agile community derived from the Coaching community. Essentially, leaders should ask powerful questions to help teams/individuals find the solution for themselves instead of just answering or giving directions.   For example, “what is possible here?”, “what would you do?”, etc.

I remember my first introduction to powerful questions.  I had attended a conference session where the presenter challenged the attendees to go back to the office and for one day don’t answer a question:  only answer with powerful questions.  Since I am not one to back down from a challenge, I gave it a shot.  I FAILED!

In no particular order, here’s the pains I experienced:

  • I annoyed people.  Changing a relationship interaction pattern takes time.  Too much change at once can be confusing and annoying.  People were accustomed to answers and now I gave NOTHING.
  • I annoyed myself.  When I knew the answer in my head and I got to the third question without them getting there, I became agitated.  How was this more effective?  I know, very short-sighted but honest.  Not to mention, powerful questions have to be asked without a solution in mind!
  • Powerful questions are not magical.  Knowing which powerful questions to ask is a learned skill that takes practice.  I thought they were magical and just worked all the time.  Not true.  Not only did I have to build relationships where people knew I wasn’t the automatic answer but I had to learn how to ask the right powerful questions at the right times.  There’s no scenario book that gives you the answers.
  • Powerful questions are a tool.  As with any tool, they should be used to help.  There were times that I found giving an answer was what the individual needed (maybe for support/re-assurance).  The challenge helped me to see that this was a tool I was rarely using…not one I should only ever use.

What pain have you experienced trying to leverage powerful questions?

Tricia Broderick

Tricia Broderick

Tricia Broderick is a leadership and organizational advisor. Her transformational leadership at all levels of an organization, ignites growth of leaders and high performing teams to deliver quality outcomes. Tricia has more than twenty years of experience in the software development industry. She is a highly-rated trainer, coach, facilitator and motivational keynote speaker. Beyond her extensive knowledge and skills, her biggest offering is inspiring people to believe anything is possible.

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