Day 20 – Ask Better Questions, Get Better Results

“There are no right answers to wrong questions.”–Ursula K. Le Guin

Your Outcome:  Learn how to ask “cutting” questions to instantly start helping you improve your results.  By asking key questions, you can cut through the fog or cut to the chase and figure out what really counts.
Welcome to day 20 of 30 Days of Getting Results, based on my book, Getting Results the Agile Way.  In day 19, we learned to ask the question, “Who are you doing it for?” to help us get clarity on why we are doing what we’re doing and whether it is really valued and who actually values it.  This also helps us map the value better, whether it’s for ourselves or for somebody else.  Today, we build on this approach of asking questions, to improve our results.
Asking cutting questions helps you improve your ability to work on the right things, with the right energy, at the right time, the right way … for YOUR BEST RESULTS.
Asking better questions is an ongoing process.  The one who gains the most is you.  Your ability to improve the questions you ask yourself will improve the quality of your life in all areas.
Why Ask Questions
Asking the right questions can help you balance, focus, make better decisions, and prioritize more effectively.    Let’s elaborate on that:
  • Asking the right questions leads us to better answers.  If we think of thinking as a process of asking and answering questions, then to get better answers, we have to ask better questions.  Think about that.  Whether it’s your own self-talk or in a meeting, how powerful is it to ask the right question?
  • Asking questions changes your focus.  You can change your focus by changing your question, and this allows you to quickly switch perspectives or get a new lens on things.  For example, by asking yourself “What’s right in your life?” you get a very different result than asking, “What’s wrong with your life?”  Some people never ask themselves what’s right in their life, and they lose appreciation for what they’ve got, and they blow the bad things out of proportion.
  • Direct your self-talk more effectively.    Change your questions and you change your game.  Rather than “tell” yourself to do things, you can ask more effective questions to get more resourceful.  For example, “How might I solve this” or “What’s a good approach?” or “Who else shares this problem that I can learn from?”  You can also get unstuck by switching gears from “Why” to “How” questions.  For example, rather than ask, “Why does this always happen to me?”, ask yourself either, “What are you going to do about it?” or “How will you avoid this in the future?”
  • Asking questions creates opportunity.   If you want more conflict in your life, simply make more statements.  Statements create conflict.  Somebody can always argue with a statement.  You can even argue with yourself.  Switching to questions, opens up exploration.
  • Questions create “ah-has.” When you ask questions, you can actually create emotional connections as you have your insight and “ah-ha” moments.  These emotional links are more powerful than just raw information.
As you can see, there are lots of reasons why improving your questions can improve your everyday experience in a very practical way.
Quotes About Questions
Here are some of my favorite quotes about the value of asking good questions:
  1. “A child can ask questions that a wise man cannot answer.”—Unknown
  2. A prudent question is one-half of wisdom.” – Francis Bacon
  3. “An answer is always a form of death.”—John Fowles
  4. “It is not every question that deserves an answer.” — Publilius Syrus
  5. “No question is so difficult to answer as that to which the answer is obvious.” — Karl Otto von Schonhausen Bismarck
  6. “Quality questions create a quality life. Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers.” — Anthony Robbins
  7. “Questions are never indiscreet. Answers sometimes are.” – Publilius Syrus
  8. “The man who questions opinion is wise; the man who quarrels with fact is a fool.”–Frank A Garbutt
  9. “The only questions that really matter are the ones you ask yourself.” –Ursula K. LeGuin
  10. “The uncreative mind can spot wrong answers, but it takes a very creative mind to spot wrong questions.” —Antony Jay
  11. “We learn more by looking for the answer to a question and not finding it than we do from learning the answer itself.”—Lloyd Alexander
  12. “When we have arrived at the question, the answer is already near.”–Ralph Waldo Emerson
  13. “You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions”.—Naguib Mahfouz
Questions for Improving Your Results
Here is a table of questions you can draw from to help you improve your results:
  • Are the right people working on the right things?
  • What’s the right thing to do?
  • What’s the best play for this scenario?
  • Does your container limit or support you?
  • What’s the next best thing to do?
  • Next steps?
  • What are the actions?
  • What’s the simplest thing you can do now?
  • Is your current action moving your forwards or backwards?
Efficiency andEffectiveness
  • What are you optimizing?
  • Is it effective?
  • Are you going faster AND in the right direction?
Goals and Objectives
  • What do you want to accomplish?
  • What are the tests for success?
  • Are these really your goals or someone else’s?
  • Who can you learn from?
  • What are 3 examples to model from?
  • What are 3 things going well?
  • What are 3 things to improve?
  • Do you want to do it?
  • Do you like to do it?
  • How can you enjoy the process?
  • What thoughts are getting in the way of your motivation?
  • Can you make a different choice that is more motivating?
Time Management
  • How much time did you spend on it?
  • How much time should you spend on it?
  • Is now the right time?
  • What’s good enough for now?
  • Are you spending $20 on a $5 problem?
  • How can you manage your energy to use your time more effectively?
  • Does it matter?
  • Is it significant?
  • Who feels it has value? You? Others?
  • If others value it, does it conflict or align with what you value?
Use the table as a starting point, but the key is to find the questions that work for you and continue to add to your “question toolbox” over time.  You’ll find that some questions will really empower you from getting unstuck, to finding solutions, to getting inspired, to figuring out your next best thing to do.
Today’s Assignment
  1. Identify one question you can ask yourself that can help you get better results.
  2. Identify one question you need to stop asking yourself, so you can get better results.  Find a more effective question you can replace the ineffective question with.