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Change Your Questions
Change Your World
Helping people discover
their agile instincts and
develop their coaching
abilities
Allison Pollard
Always looking for
opportunities to get
people into creative roles
to bring out their super
powers
Ben Kennedy
Coaching People or Fixing People?
● 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
What is the question?
How could the parade attractions
be made larger or taller?
Photos 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.
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.
Changing the question
Photo by Macy’s, Inc
What Questions Do
Think outside the box
Create solutions they can own
Motivate to take action
Architecture of Powerful Questions
Construction
Assumptions
Scope
Recognizing Powerful Questions
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
Building Powerful Questions
● When have you been the most
satisfied with our working relationship?
● Are you satisfied with our working relationship?
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?
More
Less
Constructing Powerful Questions
Why
How
What
Who, When, Where
Which, Yes/No
Questions
More powerful
Less powerful
Scope
● What are the boundaries of the question?
○ How can we improve?
■ …our team?
■ …our department?
■ …our company?
Types of Powerful Questions
Goal Reality
Obstacles/
Options
Way
forward
Building Powerful Questions
1. The team has decided on a solution but isn’t 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
What did we do wrong, and who is
responsible?
What can we learn from what’s happened, and
what possibilities do we now see?
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
Using Powerful Questions
Remain curious
Don’t provide solutions
Don’t manipulate
Explore limiting assumptions/beliefs
• 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?
• Judgmental
• Expert/Know-it-all
• Empathetic/Supportive
• Curious
Building Powerful Questions
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
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
Allison Pollard
allison.pollard@improving.com
@allison_pollard
www.allisonpollard.com
Ben Kennedy
Ben.Kennedy@improving.com
Contact Us

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Little Rock Tech Fest - Change your questions change your world

  • 2. Helping people discover their agile instincts and develop their coaching abilities Allison Pollard
  • 3. Always looking for opportunities to get people into creative roles to bring out their super powers Ben Kennedy
  • 4. Coaching People or Fixing People? ● 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
  • 5. 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? How could the parade attractions be made larger or taller? Photos 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.
  • 7. 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. Changing the question Photo by Macy’s, Inc
  • 8. What Questions Do Think outside the box Create solutions they can own Motivate to take action
  • 9. Architecture of Powerful Questions Construction Assumptions Scope
  • 10. Recognizing Powerful Questions 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?
  • 11. 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? More Less
  • 13. 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? More Less
  • 14. Constructing Powerful Questions Why How What Who, When, Where Which, Yes/No Questions More powerful Less powerful
  • 15. Scope ● What are the boundaries of the question? ○ How can we improve? ■ …our team? ■ …our department? ■ …our company?
  • 16. 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 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.
  • 18. Recognizing Assumptions What did we do wrong, and who is responsible? What can we learn from what’s happened, and what possibilities do we now see?
  • 19. 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
  • 20. Using Powerful Questions Remain curious Don’t provide solutions Don’t manipulate Explore limiting assumptions/beliefs
  • 21. • 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? • Judgmental • Expert/Know-it-all • Empathetic/Supportive • Curious Building Powerful Questions
  • 22. 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
  • 23. 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

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.