Module 5: Asking The Right Questions
High impact questions are questions that make a person think more deeply about an issue. Closed-ended questions result in a yes or no and often don’t get any deeper than that. Open-ended questions can solve problems, but they may also just generate a list of options or ideas. High impact questions get the client out of their set way of thinking and presents problems to them with an urgency that leads them to take action. They deal in the here and now.
The elements that lend this impact to a question are:
- It’s simple and direct, dealing in reality instead of speculation
- It encourages creative thinking and thinking at a deeper level
- It encourages self-reflection
High impact questions get a client closer to attaining a goal or solving a problem. They get things done by dealing not in ‘why,’ but in ‘what’ and ‘how.’
You can take any question and turn it into a high impact question by simply wording it differently and seeking a different answer. Imagine, for example, if you’d like to ask your client, ‘What tasks would you like to outsource in your business?’ An alternative high impact question that asks essentially the same thing would be,
“If you could pick just one task to outsource in your business today, what would it be?’
In the original question, you’re asking something in the realm of imagination and ideas. The ‘would like’ of the question places it in the abstract. What you’re doing with the second question is asking them to make a clear decision – which one would they outsource? You also put a time marker on it by asking them which they’d choose today. It becomes more urgent and real, and the question’s answer leads directly to an action step – outsourcing that task.
This is a priority question and can be used for anything at all to get effective answers. You can ask clients which one thing they’d change about their business or which one expense they’d like to cut. This forces them to choose one top priority, and that’s the first step of taking action when you have many options.
Here’s another example. Instead of asking your client, ‘What would you like to be doing in ten years?’ ask them instead,
“Imagine that it’s ten years from now. What does your life and business look like on a day to day basis?’
With this example also, we’re not asking them what it ‘would’ be like. Even though we’re using our imagination and picturing the future, you make it more real and immediate by saying ‘what does it look like,’ as if you were living it right now. This is more likely to produce answers that are clear and specific. Instead of saying, ‘I’d be happy and successful,’ they may say something like, ‘I don’t spend any time creating my own content because I have a writer who does that.’ They’ve just defined a goal – finding and hiring a good writer for their content creation.
Turning regular questions into high impact questions that elicit clear actionable answers is only the first step. As a coach, you also need to listen to their answer closely and use it to guide them toward those action steps. Don’t judge their answer on whether it’s wise or unwise, but rather on whether or not it’s coming from a genuine place. The whole point of high impact questions is to get them into the zone of thinking more deeply about their problems and challenges.