What has a head, a tail, is brown and has no legs?

The phrase, “Ask me no questions, I will tell you no lies.” is attributed to Irish playwright Oliver Goldsmith (1728-1774).  Today a better phrase might be, “Ask me purposeful questions and I can tell you no lies”.  We live in an era of continual change.  We have come to learn that there are no final solutions or answers, only conclusions that are subject to new questions.  In fact it is our ability to effectively question that creates new opportunity.  Ineffectual questions, those lacking purpose, simply fill air space, but purposeful questions are multifunctional; they can serve to foster creativity, demonstrate respect, diffuse situations and create trust.  What purpose will your future questions serve?  Will they simply fill the air with conversation or will they enable your team to better expand solutions,  seize opportunities and solve problems?  Equally important, “What has a head, a tail, is brown and has no legs?  Read on to learn more and get the answer!

Jeff Boss is a former Navy SEAL and Forbes Contributor. I like the lead into his post, The Power of Questions; “Nothing has such power to cause a complete turnaround as that of a question.  Questions spark curiosity, curiosity creates ideas, and ideas lead to innovation.”  Boss believes that the use of questions can serve to:

  • Enable You:  Inquiry (questions) are strong motivators that fuel conversations and can be directed toward finding passion and purpose
  • Redefine your Vehicle:  Questions serve to redefine our vehicle our approach to things.  A powerful question often precedes that “aha” moment when our mindset changes, as does our behavior.
  • Help You Adapt:  Questions help us see things from a new angle or perspective.  In doing so a new reality is created.  Likewise, we can structure questions to foster adaptability with simple changes that foster an open response vs. a yes/no answer.

Enable, redefine, adapt, is a powerful recipe that will equip us to better embrace the challenges we encounter in an ever-changing world.

Questions are also a powerful tool.  How we use them can serve to unleash potential and creativity that might otherwise go undiscovered!   How can we hone our questioning skills so that we can release that potential?  Aaron Levy addresses this question in his Forbes Coaches Council post, “How to Ask More Powerful Questions”   Levy begins with an interesting idea.  He believes what holds many back from becoming powerful leaders is a propensity to find the quick solution rather than taking the time to evaluate potential outcomes and solutions.  He suggests we begin by recognizing the power of confirmation bias.  His Video gives you a quick understanding of the power bias can have.  Bias will hinder decision making ability and blindside us.  Asking powerful, purposeful,  questions becomes our tool to avoid this pitfall. They evoke clarity, create greater possibility, reveal new learning and generate action.  Powerful, purposeful questions:

  • Are open ended:  They avoid yes/no responses and ask for what, when, how or why
  • Come from a beginner’s mindset:  We start by saying, “I don’t know the answer to this question.”
  • Are clear and succinct:  They are kept simple.  The number of words is limited.
  • Are impactful:  These questions require the respondent to dig deep for the answer.  They seek to find the answer within rather than seeking the opinion of another or the so-called expert.
  • Happen in the moment:  Perhaps the most crucial point to remember about powerful questioning.  They aren’t scripted, they happen in the moment.

The true secret to asking powerful questions is found in a very specific trait, one that many have lost along the way.  Its rediscovery is simple.  It is found in curiosity!  Watch any three year old for an hour and you will see it modeled.  They ask what, how and why to nearly everything they see.  They want to know more about the world around them, they don’t care about societal expectations, nor if they are wrong or right.  They just ask!  Speaking of asking, I believe I promised you an answer to the question, ““What has a head, a tail, is brown and has no legs?”.  I hope your bias didn’t distract you.  The answer? A Penny!