This month I am pleased to share another guest article from my friends and colleagues, David Emerald and Donna Zajonc. David and Donna are the creators of 3 Vital Questions: Transforming Workplace Drama, the best approach I’ve seen for turning workplace conflict, into powerful collaboration. I’m proud to be certified to coach the 3 Vital Questions method and share this powerful approach to servant leadership with you. Now … over to David and Donna:
Ask More Empowered Questions
By David Emerald & Donna Zajonc, MCC
November 8, 2019
Great questions trigger ideas and powerful new insights. Depending on the tone and intention behind your questions, they can also come across as condescending and manipulative. What is the secret behind an empowered question that can unlock creativity and invite others to open-up and share? You may be asking zillions of questions and have bits of information at your fingertips, but are you asking the powerful questions that will lead to innovative and positive breakthroughs?
Maybe the most powerful and disturbing question is: “What do I (you or we) want?” It is amazing how often we ask that question and the response is silence or an empty stare.
A great question is like breathing. It is something so basic and instinctive but often taken for granted—an overlooked skill. Done well, a powerful question can be the breath of fresh air that leads you and others on a new path forward.
When you are stuck in the reactive cycle of the Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT), most likely the questions you ask will keep the Drama cycle going. For example, if you are mired in the Victim role, in response to a difficult situation you may ask yourself:
- Why did this happen to me?
- Why do I have all the bad luck?
- Why don’t I get what other people get?
When in your Creator essence, which anchors TED* (*The Empowerment Dynamic)®—the antidote to the Victim role—you ask very different questions. A Creator’s questions are intended to create new opportunities and ways of seeing. A Creator may ask:
- Given the situation, how might I make the most of it?
- What is mine to do here?
- What do I really want given the situation?
The Persecutor in the DDT has a strong need to control and manage the anxiety they feel about the “problem.” They may ask:
- Who is to blame for this?
- I know I am right about this. Why don’t they listen to me?
- How can I get ahead in this situation?
A Challenger—the antidote to the Persecutor—lets go of the need to be right and is focused on growth and learning, even in the face of very difficult situations. A Challenger may ask:
- What is here for me to learn despite this set-back?
- What is true, given the situation?
- Where can I stay consistent with my values and still move forward?
The Rescuer role believes their job is to save the day, even when not asked. A Rescuer may ask:
- How can I take your pain away?
- If I could do more, what else could I do?
- How can I fix this for you?
Coaches ask better questions that create clarity, always leaving the power and responsibility with the other person. The Coach may ask:
- What is it that you really care about?
- What is working well that you can build upon?
- What is one Baby Step that you can take to move forward?
Some of the best leaders are insanely good at seeing old habits of thought or routines that lock up fresh ideas. Once you ask the better question, everyone has permission to create better options and change the approach.
The TED* “better questions” are built upon becoming interested in and curious about what you don’t know, rather than what you do know. These are not questions you can ask Siri, Alexa, or Google Home and expect an answer.
The results you get are only as good as the questions you ask. By embracing the TED* roles you can ask more empowered questions in any moment, which will result in more resourcefulness and resilience.