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Ask Powerful Questions to Influence and Persuade
Ask Powerful Questions to Influence and Persuade

Ask Powerful Questions

Your ability to ask powerful questions vastly improves your ability to influence and persuade.

Stop People in their tracks. Powerful Questions are outside the norm of regular conversation. They are intended to stop people in their tracks and go beyond the first thing that might come to mind. For instance, “What concerns you?” is not necessarily a Powerful Question but “What concerns you? What might be the unintended consequences of not taking action?” is one.

Dig deeper and give time. As deeper questions, Powerful Question wade into generally unexplored territory and can take longer to answer. Expect some silence as people ponder their answers. You will need to be comfortable and let things get quiet to give the person time to consider their answer. When you do, you will often find that people volunteer information that you would have never obtained any other way.

Propel Accountability. Powerful questions invite the other person (or group) to generate their own answers and articulate the personal benefits of taking action. When people digest reality and articulate personal answers, they are more likely to take ownership of the situation and the path forward.

Requires Creativity – for both parties. Powerful Questions definitely encourage creativity for the person answering but you can still influence and guide the conversation by what questions you ask. For example, “How could we approach this problem” might be too broad. But “What would actually resolve this issue in the next month?” requires creativity on your part and uses constraints to guide the conversation.

Couple with reflective listening for even more impact. The tool of reflective listening is incredibly powerful for making people feel heard, summarizing issues, and moving the conversation forward. When you couple it with Powerful Questions, you acknowledge the other person’s perspective while moving your agenda forward. For example, “I hear you saying that X has been put on several probationary periods and is still costing you a lot of time. What would your workweek look like if this wasn’t an issue?”


Articulate Success and Building the Case for Change

  1. What would success look like? How would your work look different?
  2. How might success impact the rest of your team?
  3. What would be different if this wasn’t issue?
  4. How is this issue affecting your customers? Other stakeholders?
  5. How could you use your Strengths in this situation?

Generate Solutions

  1. How did this issue or need come to light? What was your reaction?
  2. What would you do differently if you could?
  3. What is something that has worked in the past but doesn’t seem immediately relevant in this situation?
  4. What solutions have you not considered?
  5. If another person/department had this issue, what would you suggest they pursue?

Address Concerns and Roadblocks

  1. What concerns you? What might be the unintended consequences?
  2. Does anything worry you about your solution?
  3. What are the pros and cons of taking action?
  4. What is a roadblock that if removed would enable you to take action?

15. How could your Strengths help you mitigate unpleasant aspects?

Building Resources and Support

16. How can I best support you?

17. Who else can or should be involved?

18. What other resources would be useful in this situation?

19. Can you identify any skill or resource gaps for you or your team?

20. What would make this easier?