The Power of a Question



Michael J. Marquardt, author of Leading with Questions:

How Leaders Find the Right Solutions by Knowing What to Ask says, “You don’t have to have the answer to ask a great question. A great question will ultimately get an answer.”

A schoolteacher shared this story. One day, as the children played at recess, a usually very calm, good-natured little boy hit a little girl, who was his best friend. The playground monitors rushed over as the little girl stood crying. One monitor immediately reprimanded the boy in an angry voice, “You can’t hit other people. That’s wrong! What were you thinking?! And boys don’t hit girls!”

Now, both children stood sobbing. The other playground monitor sat down with the children and asked only one question of the little boy, “Why did you hit her?” Through tears, he explained, “There was a bee on her, and I didn’t want my friend to get stung.” The monitor glanced down and, indeed, laying on the ground by the little girl, was a bee.

What a difference a great question can make! This true story is a brilliant metaphor for the times we should have asked more questions and didn’t.

Effective and empowering questions serve several proposes:

  1. They create clarity – What did you learn about the little boy through one question?
  2. They construct better relationships – How did your opinion of the little boy shift when you understood his reason?
  3. They inspire people to reflect and see things in fresh, unpredictable ways and encourage breakthrough thinking – What would you ask the boy to help him find other solutions to protecting his friend from bees?
  4. They challenge assumptions – What assumptions did the first playground monitor make? How did those change with one question?

Open-ended questions do not seek specific answers. They allow curiosity and exploration. Good opened-ended questions can start with what, how, when, where, who, tell me, or I wonder.

Great questions benefit organizations, teams, and employees by minimizing miscommunications from making assumptions, changing points of view, stimulating creativity, engaging critical thinking, developing ownership of issues, and encouraging problem solving ability.

What great questions will you ask of others today?

For more information,

contact Mitch Vandiver


or 410-363-6669