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Change Your Questions 
Change Your World 
1 
Photo © Oleksiy Mark - Fotolia.com
Welcome to Houston TechFest 
Thank you for being a part of the 
8th Annual Houston TechFest! 
• Please turn off all electronic devices or set them to vibrate. 
• If you must take a phone call, please do so in the lobby so as not 
to disturb others. 
• Thanks to our Diamond Sponsors: 
2
Allison Pollard, ICP-AC, PSM, CSM, PSPO, CSP, PMP, PMI-ACP 
Firm believer in continuous 
improvement and the power 
of teams to affect change 
3
Cherie Silas, PSM, CSM, PSPO, CSP, PMP 
Strong desire to help people 
arrive at the place they define 
as success in both personal 
and professional life 
4
Coaching People or Fixing People? 
5 
• Coaching people means 
treating them as 
naturally creative, 
resourceful, and whole 
• Fixing people assumes 
they aren’t capable of 
changing their own 
habits 
Photo © tecnofotocr - Fotolia.com
Agenda for this session 
• What questions do and why to ask them 
• The architecture of powerful questions 
– Recognizing more/less powerful questions 
– Exploring types of powerful questions 
– Asking powerful questions with curiosity 
6
What is the question? 
7 
How could the parade attractions be 
made larger or taller? 
Photo by Macy’s, Inc 
At the first-ever Macy's Day Parade, 
employees dressed in fun costumes and 
traveled with Central Park zoo animals and 
floats. The parade drew a large crowd, and 
it was difficult to see.
Changing the question 
8 
How could the parade 
attractions be put in the air for 
people to see? 
By asking a different question, 
a different solution became 
clear – balloons. 
Photo by Macy’s, Inc
What Questions Do 
9 
• Think outside the box 
• Create solutions they 
can own 
• Motivates to take action 
Photo © Sergey Nivens - Fotolia.com
Architecture of Powerful Questions 
Construction 
10 
Assumptions 
Scope
Recognizing Powerful Questions 
11 
• What time is it? 
• Did you take a shower? 
• What possibilities exist that we haven’t 
thought of yet? 
• What does it mean to be independent?
Qualities of Powerful Questions 
• Generates curiosity 
• Thought provoking 
• Surfaces underlying assumptions 
• Generates energy & forward movement 
• Stays with the participants 
• Evokes more questions 
12
Building Powerful Questions 
• When have you been the most 
satisfied with our working 
relationship? 
• Are you satisfied with our working 
relationship? 
13 
More 
Less
Building Powerful Questions 
• Why might it be that our working 
relationship has ups and downs? 
• What do you find the most satisfying 
about our working relationship? 
14 
More 
Less
Constructing Powerful Questions 
Why 
How 
What 
Who, When, Where 
Which, Yes/No Questions 
15 
More powerful 
Less powerful
16 
• What are the 
boundaries of the 
question? 
– How can we improve? 
• …our team? 
• …our department? 
• …our company? 
Scope 
Photo © ra2 studio - Fotolia.com
Types of Powerful Questions 
Goal Reality 
Obstacles/Options Way forward 
17
Building Powerful Questions 
1. The team has decided on a solution but isn’t 
18 
moving forward. 
2. A team member is rehashing a story of 
something that happened in the past. 
3. A team member is unsure about a course of 
action.
Recognizing Assumptions 
• Almost all of the questions we pose have 
assumptions built in 
– What did we do wrong, and who is responsible? 
– What can we learn from what’s happened, and what 
possibilities do we now see? 
23
Challenging Assumptions 
• Almost all of the answers we hear have 
assumptions built in 
– I’m not a people person 
– I find large crowds to be energy-draining 
24
Using Powerful Questions 
25 
• Remain curious 
• Don’t provide solutions 
• Don’t manipulate 
• Explore limiting 
assumptions/beliefs 
Photo © ra2 studio - Fotolia.com
Building Powerful Questions 
26 
• Why is that important? 
• How will you know 
when you’re successful? 
• Where are you 
sabotaging yourself? 
• What are you resisting? 
• When will you take 
action? 
• Curious 
• Judgmental 
• Expert/Know-it-all 
• Empathetic/Supportive
Summary 
• What questions do and why to ask them 
• The architecture of powerful questions 
– Recognizing more/less powerful questions 
– Exploring types of powerful questions 
– Asking powerful questions with curiosity 
27
What Did You Learn, and How Will You Use This? 
28 
Photo © Rawpixel - Fotolia.com
Resources 
• Professional Coach Training ~ J. Val Hastings, MCC 
• Coaching Questions ~ Tony Stolzfus 
• The Art of Powerful Questions ~ Eric E. Vogt, Juanita 
Brown, and David Isaacs 
• Coaching Agile Teams ~ Lyssa Adkins 
• Powerful Questions Exercise by Deborah Preuss, inspired 
by Carlton Nettleton 
29
Contact Us 
allison.pollard@improvingenterprises.com 
30 
@allison_pollard 
cherie.silas@improvingenterprises.com 
@cheriesilas 
Photo © kukumalu - Fotolia.com
Please Leave Feedback During Q&A 
31 
If you leave session 
feedback and provide 
contact information in 
the survey, you will be 
qualified for a prize 
Scan the QR Code to 
the right or go to 
http://bit.ly/1p13f3n
Thanks to all our Sponsors! 
32

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Change your questions change your world - Houston TechFest 2014

  • 1. Change Your Questions Change Your World 1 Photo © Oleksiy Mark - Fotolia.com
  • 2. Welcome to Houston TechFest Thank you for being a part of the 8th Annual Houston TechFest! • Please turn off all electronic devices or set them to vibrate. • If you must take a phone call, please do so in the lobby so as not to disturb others. • Thanks to our Diamond Sponsors: 2
  • 3. Allison Pollard, ICP-AC, PSM, CSM, PSPO, CSP, PMP, PMI-ACP Firm believer in continuous improvement and the power of teams to affect change 3
  • 4. Cherie Silas, PSM, CSM, PSPO, CSP, PMP Strong desire to help people arrive at the place they define as success in both personal and professional life 4
  • 5. Coaching People or Fixing People? 5 • Coaching people means treating them as naturally creative, resourceful, and whole • Fixing people assumes they aren’t capable of changing their own habits Photo © tecnofotocr - Fotolia.com
  • 6. Agenda for this session • What questions do and why to ask them • The architecture of powerful questions – Recognizing more/less powerful questions – Exploring types of powerful questions – Asking powerful questions with curiosity 6
  • 7. What is the question? 7 How could the parade attractions be made larger or taller? Photo by Macy’s, Inc At the first-ever Macy's Day Parade, employees dressed in fun costumes and traveled with Central Park zoo animals and floats. The parade drew a large crowd, and it was difficult to see.
  • 8. Changing the question 8 How could the parade attractions be put in the air for people to see? By asking a different question, a different solution became clear – balloons. Photo by Macy’s, Inc
  • 9. What Questions Do 9 • Think outside the box • Create solutions they can own • Motivates to take action Photo © Sergey Nivens - Fotolia.com
  • 10. Architecture of Powerful Questions Construction 10 Assumptions Scope
  • 11. Recognizing Powerful Questions 11 • What time is it? • Did you take a shower? • What possibilities exist that we haven’t thought of yet? • What does it mean to be independent?
  • 12. Qualities of Powerful Questions • Generates curiosity • Thought provoking • Surfaces underlying assumptions • Generates energy & forward movement • Stays with the participants • Evokes more questions 12
  • 13. Building Powerful Questions • When have you been the most satisfied with our working relationship? • Are you satisfied with our working relationship? 13 More Less
  • 14. Building Powerful Questions • Why might it be that our working relationship has ups and downs? • What do you find the most satisfying about our working relationship? 14 More Less
  • 15. Constructing Powerful Questions Why How What Who, When, Where Which, Yes/No Questions 15 More powerful Less powerful
  • 16. 16 • What are the boundaries of the question? – How can we improve? • …our team? • …our department? • …our company? Scope Photo © ra2 studio - Fotolia.com
  • 17. Types of Powerful Questions Goal Reality Obstacles/Options Way forward 17
  • 18. Building Powerful Questions 1. The team has decided on a solution but isn’t 18 moving forward. 2. A team member is rehashing a story of something that happened in the past. 3. A team member is unsure about a course of action.
  • 19. Recognizing Assumptions • Almost all of the questions we pose have assumptions built in – What did we do wrong, and who is responsible? – What can we learn from what’s happened, and what possibilities do we now see? 23
  • 20. Challenging Assumptions • Almost all of the answers we hear have assumptions built in – I’m not a people person – I find large crowds to be energy-draining 24
  • 21. Using Powerful Questions 25 • Remain curious • Don’t provide solutions • Don’t manipulate • Explore limiting assumptions/beliefs Photo © ra2 studio - Fotolia.com
  • 22. Building Powerful Questions 26 • Why is that important? • How will you know when you’re successful? • Where are you sabotaging yourself? • What are you resisting? • When will you take action? • Curious • Judgmental • Expert/Know-it-all • Empathetic/Supportive
  • 23. Summary • What questions do and why to ask them • The architecture of powerful questions – Recognizing more/less powerful questions – Exploring types of powerful questions – Asking powerful questions with curiosity 27
  • 24. What Did You Learn, and How Will You Use This? 28 Photo © Rawpixel - Fotolia.com
  • 25. Resources • Professional Coach Training ~ J. Val Hastings, MCC • Coaching Questions ~ Tony Stolzfus • The Art of Powerful Questions ~ Eric E. Vogt, Juanita Brown, and David Isaacs • Coaching Agile Teams ~ Lyssa Adkins • Powerful Questions Exercise by Deborah Preuss, inspired by Carlton Nettleton 29
  • 26. Contact Us allison.pollard@improvingenterprises.com 30 @allison_pollard cherie.silas@improvingenterprises.com @cheriesilas Photo © kukumalu - Fotolia.com
  • 27. Please Leave Feedback During Q&A 31 If you leave session feedback and provide contact information in the survey, you will be qualified for a prize Scan the QR Code to the right or go to http://bit.ly/1p13f3n
  • 28. Thanks to all our Sponsors! 32

Editor's Notes

  1. where you work your history why this topic ...is a Principal Consultant for Improving Enterprises and has worked with Agile teams as a project manager, as a Scrum Master, and in coaching roles. A firm advocate of continuous improvement and the power of teams to affect change, she believes the world needs more strong teams in order to be Agile and meet the demands of today; her goal is to help others create them, shape them, and support them. Allison also volunteers locally as one of the organizers of the DFW Scrum user group and serves on the Dallas Agile Leadership Network board.
  2. WHY THIS TOPIC Coaching people is better than “fixing” people - “Fixing” an employee assumes that something’s inherently wrong with them, and that they aren’t capable of changing their own habits or character. When was the last time you sat through a meeting and said to yourself, “This is a complete waste of time!”? Was it yesterday, or even just a few hours ago? Why did that gathering feel so tedious? Perhaps it’s because the leaders posed the wrong questions at the start of the session. Or, worse yet, maybe they didn’t ask any engaging questions, and as a result, the meeting consisted of boring reports-outs or other forms of one- way communication that failed to engage people’s interest or curiosity. The Whip and The Shield - http://agilitrix.com/2014/06/stop-using-agile-as-a-whip-and-shield/ As coaches and consultants, we often walk into these situations, and we want better. We believe people are naturally creative, resourceful, and whole. We want to unlock the organization’s potential by empowering people to speak up.
  3. What happens when we ask a question? An example is the Macy’s Day Parade – this is an amazing story… The story of the Macys day parade is an amazing story of how one question changed everything.  I watched a special about this on TV a while back.  The guy who made the marionettes for the window was commissioned to make the marionettes for the parade.  The first parade was a "success" but it was also a nightmare because no one could see the marionettes because they were too small.  They were on the ground and the great wall of people in the crowd could not see them. The man kept trying unsuccessfully time and time again to make the marionettes bigger so the crowd would be able to see them but they were too big and too heavy.  He just kept asking himself, how do I make these big/ tall enough for everyone to see?  He kept failing.
  4. Finally, I think he saw birds flying overhead or something and it provoked him to think and start asking a different question... How can I get the marionettes up in the air above the people so they can all see them? Thus came the balloons … Transition: not all questions are created equally
  5. The aversion in our culture to asking creative questions is linked to an emphasis on finding quick fixes and an attachment to black/white, either/or thinking. In addition, the rapid pace of our lives and work doesn’t often provide us with opportunities to participate in reflective conversations in which we can explore catalytic questions and innovative possibilities before reaching key decisions. These factors, coupled with a prevailing belief that “real work” consists primarily of detailed analysis, immediate decisions, and decisive action, contradict the perspective that effective “knowledge work” consists of asking profound questions and hosting wide-ranging strategic conversations on issues of substance. As coaches, we are not asking questions to gain more information for ourselves.
  6. Let’s dissect powerful questions. Could have a handout with questions for the audience to rank most to least powerful like http://deborahpreuss.com/resources/DeborahPreuss_PowerfulQuestions_exercise_kit.pdf
  7. Which of these questions seem more powerful to you? Why? What is it about these 3-4 questions that seem more powerful? Ask audience to give qualities of powerful questions before showing next slide 1-2 are closed questions that only call for one answer 3-4 are thought provoking, 3-4 cause you to dig deep, 3-4 pushes you to think outside of the current box, 3-4 causes you to investigate beliefs and assumptions, 3-4 cause the listener to start to give an answer and ask even more questions in order to fully answer the original question posed 3-4 are curious and cause the listener to think so deeply that when they walk away they will still be pondering the question for more of the answers 3-4 have the ability to move the listener forward – once they figure out the answer to these questions they will want to do something with that information – they will be motivated to take next steps.
  8. Ask audience to give qualities of powerful questions before showing slide
  9. Questions can be like a lever you use to pry open a stuck lid on a paint can. If you have a short lever you can only crack open the lid on the can. But if you have a longer lever, or a more dynamic question, you can open up the can much wider and really stir things up. If the right question is applied and it digs deep enough you can stir up creative solutions.
  10. Remember: why questions can make the other person defensive!
  11. Questions can be like a lever you use to pry open a stuck lid on a paint can. If you have a short lever you can only crack open the lid on the can. But if you have a longer lever, or a more dynamic question, you can open up the can much wider and really stir things up. If the right question is applied and it digs deep enough you can stir up creative solutions. However, a note of caution: Unless a “why” question is carefully crafted, it can easily evoke a defensive response, as people try to justify their answer rather than proceed in a spirit of inquiry. It has a pointy edge!
  12. As you work to make your questions powerful, tailor and clarify the scope as precisely as possible to keep them within the realistic boundaries and needs of the situation you are working with. Avoid stretching the scope of your question too far. Transition to next slide: Based on our current context, we can ask one of four types of questions…
  13. Type #1 – Examples – Questions that evoke discovery What do you really, really, want? What’s perfect about this? What is the gift in this? What additional information do you need? How much is this costing you? Who can help you with this? Type #2 – Examples – Questions that help gain perspective and understanding What’s the truth about this situation? Who do you remind yourself of? What keeps you up at night? Is there anything else that would be important for me to know? Type #3 – Examples – Questions that promote clarity and learning What if things are as bad as you say they are? Where are you sabotaging yourself? What’s the cost of not changing? What’s next? What’s past this issue? Type #4 – Examples – Questions that call for action What’s possible today? How soon can you resolve this? Who do you know that’s going through this? What does success look like? What’s the first step? When will you take this step?
  14. Assumptions may or may not be shared by the group involved in the exploration. Powerful questions are not leading questions. And coaches are not at all attached to the answer they receive. The first question assumes error and blame; it is a safe bet that whoever is responding will feel defensive. The second question encourages reflection and is much more likely than the first query to stimulate learning and collaboration among those involved. Activity – analyze questions for assumptions and rewrite them to be more open? Include tone of voice/body language?
  15. Notice when you are nodding in agreement with your client’s underlying assumptions. Is that really so? Get curious. Challenge everything. Take nothing for granted.
  16. The spaciousness of curiosity is miles wide and open for exploration. Coach and client enter this space together to look around. Curious is somehow less dangerous. Curiosity tends to lower the risk and eliminate the stifling quality of potential judgment. It’s no big deal to look in a curious way. We’re just being curious. And yet, curiosity is enormously powerful because it is so open to be surprised and to find the unexpected truth. It is childlike: look what I found! And it is exciting to look in a curious way.