- Why does asking questions help you focus attention ?
- Why is this so valuable in business and in life?
- Why coaching/mentoring done in this style is so valuable?
- Why older or mature coaches, mentors and leaders are probably more valuable than any other resource for our leaders today?
- What does all of this mean for how we relate to each other as human beings?
The brain registers a vast array of possibilities at any point e.g. I walk left e.g. I walk right e.g. I can go just five inches of left e.g. I can go 24.5 inches of left e.g. I can turn completely around and walk the other direction.
At any moment, you could say that there is a vast sea (arguable infinite in some cases) of possibilities faced by the brain.
At some point, we decide on one possibility (focus) or we continue to consider (mindfully or mindlessly) many many possibilities (inquiry, research, brainstorming or day dreaming of possibilities).
So the brain can actually consider both worlds: a vast array of possibilities and a focus on one single possibility. (How it does so is also fascinating and some theories involve the quantum theory in terms of wave collapse.. but I will not digress into this complicated topic for now).
So to repeat: So the brain can actually consider both worlds: a vast array of possibilities and a focus on one single possibility.
So the brain can respond to a signal to focus on only one or a subset of possibilities.
An example of such a signal is a question.
When you pose a question, your brain focuses on
a. either finding an answer i.e one possibility or subset of possibilities that are answers
b. making up an answer i.e. one possibility or subset of possibilities that are answers (and then testing out this answer against reality)
So selecting a good question to ask is part of the deal of an effective conversation.
Why is this useful?
a. In a sales conversation: you must develop the art and science of asking and picking good questions in succession to help people see how and why they should buy your product or at least make a clear decision that serves them.
b. In leadership, you must develop the ability to pick the right questions to ask to help people make clear decisions and to hopefully influence them to be effective leaders or workers themselves
c. In parenting, you must develop the ability to ask your children questions that get them to sort out their own issues and feel like they arrived at these conclusions by themselves rather than being dominated by their parents (A neat trick if you ask me: one my late father was brilliant at).
There is nothing wrong with living in a vast array of possibilities. Sometimes it is appropriate to do so because we don’t want to pigeonhole ourselves into one answer to the exclusion of ‘better solutions’. So there is wisdom and art in learning to see when to leave someone (e.g. a client or an employee) to consider more possibilities OR to help them focus more quickly into an answer. This wisdom and art comes with experience: so the sooner you learn to ask questions in any conversation, the more likely you are to become wise in terms of timing and selection of questions.
In some cases, however, it is clear that an answer is required or is known from your experience. But guiding the client and employee to this answer (whether you know the answer or you don’t know the answer) is a skill that you must inculcate and learn to do and master. For mastering the art and science of asking questions will give you the ability to influence people to be effective. It also then behooves us as leaders to exercise our moral constraints, so that we manipulate people in an effective yet serving manner.
Coaching done in this style is not only enjoyable for both coach and client: it is highly effective in my experience (more research should be done on this: my comment arises from pure anecdotal experience).
Coaching through asking questions: pondering questions that build to a gentle but effective crescendo just like a masterful symphony, is highly effective in helping people make decisions that involve a great deal of complexity.
This is where an effective listener and asker coach trumps any well paid consultant well steeped in the knowledge of business. Of course a well paid consultant with these skills will trump anybody else too!
But it is that combination of effective listening and effective and skilful selection of questions designed to laser like eke out the thinking required to come to effective conclusions – it is this combination that is priceless and makes an experienced but wise coach extremely useful.. well into their old age.
This kind of understanding i.e. the usefulness and utility of asking questions – really does elevate us human beings from being mechanical beings to beings that employ, use and process knowledge.
This is important to understand because if you really get this, you will never relate to functioning human beings as dregs or machines. You will instead relate to human beings as capable of understanding, processing and using knowledge.
If we started giving human beings around us a chance – by asking the right questions, we could elicit the best out of each and everyone of us. Instead of having a command and obey structure, we could have a more dynamic, interactive system of humanity – dynamically assessing possibilities and finding more effective focused solutions in the times to come.
Are you ready for this kind of society?