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?