The Power of A Unique Question

by Lynn Scott, Featured Contributor

Shut up and Listen!

SORRY IF THAT SOUNDS rude but one of the mistakes we sometimes make when going into a conversation is to think we should have all the answers – slick, smart, clever answers.

Because, as a leader or manager that’s what you’re paid to do, right?

Wrong.

Listen+understand+act

The best leaders (and coaches!) I know have mastered the art of asking great questions (and listening REALLY well) in order to get to the best answers.

And let me be clear.  This is NOT a set of questions that you can learn by rote and pull out randomly.  Oh no.

Now, there are some great questions that can serve many purposes because it’s always good to have a starting point. But we can do so much more than that if we want to get to mastery.

My wonderful coach mentor recently described a really great question as ‘one you would only ever use once’.

Because it only means something to that particular person. You’re using their words as part of your question.

That is really powerful.

It means really listening to the other person’s words rather than paraphrasing, interpreting, assuming or avoiding – because we are then seeing the world from what Chris Argyris describes as our ‘ladder of inference’; our own reality, our own map of the world.

I remember my early coach-training days – struggling to think of my next question and missing swathes of information, nuances, patterns in the conversation.  Because I was so focused on my own performance at the expense of really listening.  And I know today that when I have a busy mind, or I’m not ‘fully present, or I’m rushing, trying too hard, anxious, tired…. I’m probably not asking the right questions.

That old cliché about having two ears and one mouth is so true!


Lynn Scott
Lynn Scotthttp://www.lynnscottcoaching.co.uk/
LYNN Scott writes pragmatic, actionable, no BS tips for busy leaders. Leadership doesn’t have to be difficult. It’s not about fads, theories, models and ‘inspirational quotes.’ It’s about knowing yourself and others at a deeper level; focusing on the right things; taking one step at a time and having a really clear purpose that ignites the fire in others. Plus, of course having the best possible team in place. (Ditch those energy vampires now). Lynn is an Executive Coach working with high achieving, committed men and women and their teams who are ready for their next level of success. She particularly loves seeing technical experts become focused, confident, pro-active leaders. She previously built and led global teams for a UK PLC and learned as much from her leadership mistakes as her successes. She’s a Brit based in the South of France with husband Brian and Border Collie Poppy.
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Bob Gately

Hello Lynn, had you been speaking I would have listening. Thanks for an insightful article.

Years ago we were discussing if our Directors actually listen to the employees. I mentioned one Director who I said was a good listener. Another employee advised me to pay attention to what he said after I finished talking. The next time I had a talk with the Director I was amazed that his comments had little to do with anything I said. He looked around the room, out the window, checked the clock frequently while I was talking. Silence does not indicate listening.

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