To get the best from yourself and other, one of the nine tips I discuss in Orchestrating Attitude is to ask the right questions.

Knowing the right questions is better than having all the right answers. Or as Decouvertes put it, “It is not the answer that enlightens, but the question.”

So, the fastest way to change the answers you receive – from yourself and others – is to change the questions you ask. Consider the possible responses to questions like these:

  • What happens if I fail at this?
  • How will I deal with this problem employee?
  • How can I get through this situation?
  • How will I ever afford the car I want?

On the other hand, think about the responses that positive, more empowering questions will yield:

  • What’s the best way for me to be successful at this?
  • How can I support the success of this employee?
  • How can I make the most of this situation?
  • What are the options I need to consider in order to buy the car I want?

In the last question about affording the car you want, asking the right question opens one’s thinking to alternatives like: looking at a used model, no money down financing, increasing my savings for next 6 months to afford the down payment or looking at leases.

The questions you ask will either limit or expand the possible responses you get. Additionally, your choice of words will also dictate how involved, receptive and motivated the recipient will feel.

For example, in the heat of a month-end deadline, a sales manager might ask his lead representative, “Why are we falling short of this month’s sales goal?” The representative naturally feels defensive, put on the spot and unable to respond to the supervisorÕs satisfaction, regardless of the reason. An alternative question could be, “What do you think we can do to ensure we meet our sales goal?” Now, the representative feels involved in the solution (vs. being accused of the problem), receptive to brainstorming alternatives and supported by the supervisor. In short, he feels motivated to meet the goal.

The power of the answers you receive is directly proportionate to the power of the questions you ask. Consider how the questions you ask, both at work and at home, elicit certain responses. Ask yourself, “How can I ask questions to get the best from myself and others?”