Anthony Robbins once said, “Quality questions create a quality life. Successful people ask better questions and as a result, they get better answers.”

These kind of questions make sure that thoughts and ideas are visible in your organization, explains Joni Fedders, Aileron’s President and a certified Leadership Coach. “Empowering questions generate deeper conversations and clarity because you discover what people are really thinking, as opposed to your own story based on your assumptions,” she says.

Lifting up ourselves and empowering other people through our language can help to foster innovation, generate more meaningful conversation, and it can improve our relationships with others.

In this post, Joni shares how to use inquiry to empower others and to generate deeper conversations and clarity. 

Searching for Answers & New Possibilities

“Empowering questions are open-ended, thought-provoking, challenging, and solution-oriented questions that cause a person to search for answers and new possibilities,” explains Joni. These kinds of questions operate on the belief that others have the answers within them and simply “unleash their genius” and make you think.

Asking a question that results in a “yes” or “no” response tends to stop a conversation. These kind of questions focus more on “if” something can be accomplished (left brain thinking) instead of “how” it can be accomplished (right brain thinking).

“When we frame questions that require reflection, we enable and empower people to think and express their thoughts, emotions, fears, and ideas.” They don’t imply blame or judgment. Rather, they help support a healthy dialogue.

Examples include:

  • What other choices could you make?
  • What’s another way to look at that?
  • How do you envision the outcome?­­­

Rather than:

  • Should we do that now?
  • Is that the only way to do it?
  • Have you thought about that differently?

“It can be easy to jump to conclusions at times, but empowering questions take the responsibility off you to guess what other people are thinking. They allow you to see a new perspective and get closer to what is true versus the truth.”

Here are 5 tips to start asking better questions.

  1. Start with an empowering word. Ask questions using words like “how,” “what,” or “when.” What does success look like when you finish this project? What is getting in your way of being successful? How could you finish on time?
  2. Rephrase if needed. If you start to ask a question that can be answered with a “yes” or “no,” stop and rephrase your question into an empowering one. Typically, no one will even notice the rephrase.
  3. There are no wrong questions. Once you have asked the question, let it sit and wait for the response. Then ask another empowering question until the person you are speaking with finds clarity.
  4. Avoid asking multiple questions at once.Give the person time to both reflect and then respond. Asking multiple questions can overwhelm someone and reduce how much they reflect or share.
  5. Don’t make it manipulative.Ensure you’re coming from a place of true curiosity and not asking a “leading” question such as, “Wouldn’t it be great if you finished the project this week?” Remove judgment and avoid applying blame.

Great Leaders Use Empowering Questions 

Are you avoiding or dreading any conversations you know you need to have? Are there things you wish you could say to those you lead, but believe you can’t?

Rethink the way you approach tough conversations by having a conversation with an Aileron Leadership Coach to learn an approach that can help you ask more effective questions. Email us today to schedule time and get the tools that can help you have more powerful and pivotal conversations—including the ones you don’t want to have.