The Power of Active Questions

During my recent attendance of the Getting Things Done Summit in Amsterdam, many great speakers took to the stage to share their knowledge, experience and ideas with us.  One of those speakers was world-renowned business educator and coach, Dr Marshall Goldsmith.  

I found Marshall’s talk inspiring and thought provoking which is why I wanted to share my summary of his talk in this blog.

Active questioning as a tactic for effectiveness

The concept Marshall shared was that we can use daily questions – specifically active questions – to increase individual effectiveness and build employee / team engagement.  

In the 1970’s and 1980’s CEOs didn’t want to admit to have a coach but nowadays this is different. We’ve learned that admitting that you need help is the first step to improving and evolving. From behavioural change theory we’ve learned the things that will really make a difference.  One of these things is accountability. 

Imagine that there is someone who is going to call you every day and ask you a set of questions:

  • How many times yesterday did you try to prove you were right when it wasn’t worth it?
  • How many nice things did you do for another person yesterday?
  • And so on

And then you get a report card. How would that report card look for you?  What would your scores look like?

It becomes much harder when you start “calling” yourself because you get confronted with the fact that you are not answering your questions. Holding up a mirror to yourself is not easy.  Oh, and here’s another thing:  you can’t blame anyone else, because you wrote the questions!  And that is true accountability.  No playing the blame game, just honestly answering your own questions – every single day.

You should ask if you did your best.

  • Did I do my best to be happy?
  • Did I do my best to help others?
  • Did I do my best to listen more carefully and intentionally?
  • Did I do my best to set clear goals?
  • Did I do my best to build positive relationships?
  • Did I do my best to make progress toward goal achievement?
  • Did I do my best to be fully engaged?

Then ask how you would do it differently today.   And that is how we can improve and evolve, and ultimately become more effective.

My Action Points?

It is good to be reminded that we need to hold ourselves accountable.  I love Marshall’s idea of a set of active questions to be answered on a daily basis.  So, I’m off crafting my list of questions and incorporating my “accountability questions” into my morning routine.