How to Ask a Good Quality Question


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I think all great leaders are exceptional at asking good quality questions.

I’m going to show you the secret to asking a good quality question…

The other day, I was running a Coaching Skills for Managers workshop. I was teaching them how to be coaches as a leader. One of the skills of a great coach is their ability to ask exceptional questions.

What do people really want? People want answers. But to get an answer, you have to ask a question. The problem is, people ask really dumb questions!

For example, have you ever asked yourself the question: ‘Why is this always happening to me?’ And the answer comes in your head: ‘Because you’re an idiot.’ Or something like that. When you ask a dumb question, you’re going to get a dumb answer. So you need to learn how to ask really good quality question.

The secret to asking a really good quality question is a presupposition.

A presupposition is a linguistic assumption that helps someone move forward. For example, if I were a leader in an organisation and I were to ask ‘Can you do that?’ — there is no presupposition in that question. If I were to ask that question with a presupposition, I would say, ‘How can you do that?’ There’s an assumption in that sentence that they can do it; they just have to work out how.

Another example is, you might say ‘Is this working?’ — but a presupposition would be ‘How is this working for you?’ There’s an assumption in that sentence that it is working for them on some level.

Learn to ask good quality questions that helps to move someone forward.  for example ‘How can we turn this around?’ or ‘What would be a great outcome in this situation?’ or ‘What is the one thing that we could do right now that would make the biggest difference?’ These are all really good quality questions because there are presuppositions or linguistic assumptions in those questions that assume that there is a solution, that we can move forward, that we can make progress.

So think about this….”what is the linguistic assumption that you want to insert in your sentence to move the person forward”. So that  if they accept the linguistic assumption, that question becomes more powerful.

If you can ask really good quality questions with linguistic assumptions in them that actually help people to move forward, you will become a more effective leader. 

I trust this has been valuable. Please like it and tweet it.

My Question of you: What’s a great quality question that you use in meetings or as a leader with people? Please comment below.

Always remember — come to colinboyd.com.au to learn how to become influential, to make an impact and to live an inspired life.

  • Carolyn Parrella

    Thanks Colin. I like using pre-supposition questions to help people realise they do actually know what/how/who/when/why. One of my favourite questions when someone tells me they don’t know what to do, is, “if you did know, what would you do?” It’s great to see the light in their eyes when they realise they do in fact know, or at least know how to start.

    • http://www.colinboyd.com.au/ Colin Boyd

      Hi Carolyn, thanks so much for the comment. I love the question that you’ve shared. Its so powerful for enabling people to get past their limits. Love it!

  • satari

    Thanks for sharing Colin. Questions I ask: What does it look like in action and what actions will you take to manifest your idea. If i can see someone has a psychological block, I like to use miracle questions and ask them how they would complete the task or implement their ideas if the struggle/ fear/ block/ etc did not exist. I find the miracle question releases AH HA moments for people as they are asking themselves to solve the challenge they are facing. This is a great tool to encourage self awareness, building foundations that foster self trust, autonomy, confidence and self mastery. As they literally are able to identify and solve the internal incongruence themselves. Love your work and presentations Thank You

  • Alexandra Cownie

    Thanks a lot. This was very clear video and useful for coaching clients and also leading my team. I always find it useful to start coaching with “what are you working on?” which assumes that they are actively doing something to begin with. (which might or might not reveal to be true, but it makes them feel good as they feel that we trust them to be action takers!)