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  • Darren Gold

Powerful Questions


What if we were more intentional about the questions we ask? What if instead of the standard questions, we asked ones that are designed to provoke powerful answers?

Have you ever finished eating an unsatisfying meal at a restaurant, only to be asked by the server, “How did we enjoy our meal?” Or something to that effect. I was recently having dinner at a restaurant, and my meal had come out cold and a bit dry. I didn’t say anything at the time, nor did I offer any feedback when I was asked the standard question at the end of the meal. I simply replied that it was good and asked politely for the check. Imagine if the server at my meal had asked, “If there were one thing we could have done better this evening, what would it have been?” I’ve eaten my fair share of restaurant meals, and I’ve never been asked anything close to a question like that. If I had, I would have been much more likely to have given the restaurant the accurate feedback it actually wants and needs. A young entrepreneur realized the power of questions when he left Oracle and started Salesforce.com. Started by Mark Benioff in 1999, Salesforce.com is now valued at over $175 billion. Inspired by his mentor and coach Tony Robbins, who teaches that the quality of your life is the quality of your questions, Benioff started the company by asking the following five questions: What do you want to achieve? What’s important to you? How do you get it? What is preventing you from being successful? How do you know you have it? These powerful questions formed the basis for the company’s V2MOM (Vision, Values, Methods, Obstacles, Measures) operating system, which many credit for the organization’s incredible success. Mostly, the questions we ask or are asked are powerless. But what if we were more intentional about the questions we ask? What if instead of the standard questions, we asked ones that are designed to provoke powerful answers? What if instead of asking “How are you?” at the beginning of a conversation, we asked, “What is currently bringing you joy in life?” I have begun to ask that question to some of my colleagues and clients, and it is amazing how disruptive it is. It presupposes the very thing that is being asked and creates a new possibility in the person being asked to see what is already joyful. This is what powerful questions look like. Perhaps most importantly, we ask ourselves questions all the time. Oftentimes, these questions produce low-quality answers. “Why am I not good enough?” or “How can I make sure I don’t fail?” are questions that presuppose insufficiency and failure and will produce confirmatory answers. Powerful questions do the opposite. “What can I learn and how can I become even more extraordinary than I already am?” are questions designed to produce a totally different set of answers, actions, and results. Tony Robbins is right. The quality of your questions will indeed determine the quality of your life. Maybe it’s time for a set of new questions. What do you think? Tuesday Tips

  1. Amazon’s annual Letter to Shareholders is always worth reading given the enormous, global role that Amazon plays in our lives and in the economy. This year’s letter is no exception, and it is the first written by the company’s new CEO Andy Jassy.

  2. Brett Stephens does a great job in this New York Times opinion describing the reasons for our admiration of Ukrainian President Zelensky.

  3. Something I reread this week: the classic 1994 Harvard Business Review article, “The Fall and Rise of Strategic Planning,” in which the author Henry Mintzberg offers a critical distinction between deliberate and emergent strategy.“


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