As a professional coach, one of the tools of my trade is the powerful question. For coaches, the thoughtful silence triggered by a question is affirmation that it was indeed powerful. It sounds easier than it is, but as a leader it could be one of your most powerful tools too, so let me explain what constitutes a powerful question. It’s a question that:
Having listened deeply to someone else, comes from a space of air and light in your mind.
Is completely non-judgmental in its phraseology, tone and intention.
Generates pure curiosity for both of you.
Triggers a thoughtful silence, often because it has never been asked before, in this context or within this particular space of safety.
Uncovers deeply held and hidden thoughts and beliefs.
Shines a light in the darkest recesses of the other’s mind.
Invites creativity by linking their pre-frontal cortex with basal ganglia, the right and left hemispheres, the language centres and the hippocampus.
Stays with the other person long after you have gone!
Sparks energy, internal vibration and forward movement.
Explores hope and possibility.
Hits a nerve – in a good way.
…and most importantly, a powerful question releases other powerful questions.
Watch or listen to a good lifestyle interviewer on the TV or radio. If their guest is stuck for words, notice what the question was. Did it fit any (or all!) of the list above? Then try it in your life. What powerful questions could you ask at work or at home that spark a silent moment. I would say don’t forget not to interrupt that silence – because magic is afoot! – but sure you already know that – it comes naturally to quiet leaders.