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"Better Leaders" Pages

    Are You an 'Asker' or a 'Teller'?

    14 February 2013 in Better Aged Care |  Leave the first comment

    Are you an 'Asker' or a 'Teller'?


    As human beings we typically tell too much! We are very quick to jump in with advice, opinions and suggestions.

    Take our quick quiz to download your FREE ebook and discover the limitations of a natural ‘telling communication style’ versus an ‘asking communication style’.

    If you score 4 or more 'Yes' or 'Sometimes' there is definitely room for improvement ..but EVERYONE will benefit from reading our FREE Ebook no matter what they score.

    Learn how becoming more of an ‘Asker’ can improve your relationships and bring out more responsibility, wisdom , creativity and so much more in others!!

    When someone has a problem:

    LEADERS - Bring Out the Best in Your Team

    26 November 2012 in Better Leaders |  Leave the first comment

    The best advice I have ever been given in my quest to be a Better Questioner is to listen as though I don’t exist. I confess that the first time I heard this advice I almost decided that I wouldn’t be able to practice the skill in real life because I could not I imagine a time when I got myself out of the way. I had a realisation at that point of exactly how much I was used to me being in the conversation and how ‘painful’ it felt at the thought of me not existing.

    By way of clarification when I talk about me being in the conversation, I am not talking here about the need to be fully present, I am talking about the need for me to:

    ·       Talk about me
    ·       Provide advice and guidance because that made me feel good about myself
    ·       Demonstrate my knowledge and wisdom in some way

    I hope you can see from this clarification that there is a lot of EGO at play here and without realising it the conversations I was having were really a lot about my need to get my ego stroked! Whilst we all have a need to get our egos stroked (whether we like it or not it seems to be a basic trait of most humans) I recall feeling extremely concerned that I was doing this at the expense of others having a space to really be heard and resourceful.

    Even with this awareness though, I could not imagine what it would feel like to be so humble that I didn’t exist in this way in a conversation and was extremely fearful of taking the step to do this. Nevertheless I summoned the courage to take the step and give it a go and of course what I discovered was that there was no greater feeling than to realise than when you ‘step out of the space’ you actually create room for the other person to ‘step into’ it. It is the very act of you doing this that enables them to be resourceful and tap into their own wisdom and knowledge. Humility then is the key to unlocking the potential in others and it will be great for you to reflect on your willingness and ability to bring this enabling attribute to conversations with your staff.

    What I have come to learn is that my ego still gets a stroke from that sense of self satisfaction I get from being a Potentilaiser BUT it no longer comes from a need to talk about me or focus on my knowledge and wisdom. It comes from knowing that I have enabled someone else to be resourceful, amazing and shine... and that of course this is what Potentialising is all about!

    Better Questions - Using the Best Language

    17 April 2013 in Aged Care |  Leave the first comment

    I was chatting to a lady this week who had been trying out her new found questioning skills with mixed results. She had found that when she used Better Questions with her brother in the context of encouraging him to get clearer about his ideal career direction that she got a response where he said he didn’t know what he really wanted.

    Her reaction to this was to revert to a more telling and advising stance because she honestly felt that she had tried to question and be a Potentialiser and found that it didn’t work in this instance. I can understand that this would be a natural choice to make as I think when we try new things and find they don’t work we go back to using a tried and tested approach that has worked for us in the past. Whilst I am not saying her approach was wrong, I did encourage her to reflect on the experience to see if there was any other way that she could have approached it.

    In this discussion it was interesting to note the language that she used in her questioning, particularly when she was encouraging him to say what his ideas were. We determined that the question asked was something like “What would you like to do?”, which on the face of it seems to be a good question – it’s open and is inviting an opportunity for him to express his ideas. However as we discussed the question, particularly given that this ladies' brother was often reluctant to take responsibility, it became clear that there was too much pressure being applied by the language she had used. What I mean by this can be demonstrated best by me comparing two questions that appear on one level to be the same:

    •    “What would you like to do?”
    •    “What are some ideas about what you could do?”

    I hope that you can see immediately that one question asks for a definitive answer, the other question asks for ideas or possibilities. In the mind of the person being asked the question, the first of the questions almost suggests 'you have to know the right answer' whereas the second question gives permission to ‘play’ with ideas. Given that in this instance the brother was not used to having to make choices the softer version of the question was far more likely to get a response than the more direct version.

    Whllst I cannot guarantee that even if she had have asked the other version of the question she would have gotten a response, I would like to suggest that the likelihood would have increased because of the language used.

    Another option we discussed, was to allow her brother a little time to think about his response rather than immediately jumping into ‘teller’ mode and the lady acknowledged that both of these options were definitely worth exploring.

    So my advice here is to not give up too easily when you try using Better Questions – it is always good practice to think about the language you have used and have a go at rewording the question as you will be surprised how powerful this can be in encouraging an answer.

    Using Questions To Engage and Motivate

    09 May 2013 in Better Aged Care |  Leave the first comment

    I was reminded of an article I had read several years ago recently when I was discussing one of the key reasons why we should be using a more Questioning approach to engage and motivate people. In the article, which was written by a neuroscientist and talked about how the brain works, it advised that when we solve a problem for ourselves it is clear that at the moment of insight various neurotransmitters like adrenaline are released as well as possibly serotonin and dopamine. What this means in reality is that when you enable someone to have their own idea through asking a Better Question they will feel far more motivated about that idea than if they have simply been told what to do.

    As I am quite a visual person I thought it would be nice to try to represent the event of the insight triggering positive feelings in a picture and the following is what I came up with:

    Questions Engage and Motivate


    I love this simple little diagram that so beautifully represents what happens when a question enables the person to think about something and then get their own idea. I know myself that there are many times when I have been enabled through being asked a Better Question to get my own idea and actually consciously felt that rush of adrenaline and feel good hormones into my system. I am sure that you have heard of the eureka moment when people have an unexpected breakthrough idea or discovery and I’d like to suggest that this is something very similar that can happen when we use Better Questions.

    So my advice to you on this blog is to please be aware of the power of the question in terms of gaining engagement, buy in and motivation. If we want to support people to change, they need to come to an idea themselves, to give their brain the best chance of being energised by the creation of a wide scale new map. The best way to bring about this insight is not to think about people’s issues for them, but to help people reflect more deeply and support them in their ability to generate ideas by asking Better Questions. Telling clearly does not have the same powerful impact.

    Removing Limitations By Asking Better Questions

    17 May 2013 in Better Aged Care |  Leave the first comment

    Magic WandI will often say that Better Questions are a real gift and that in everyday situations very rarely do people bring a question to conversations that enable you to really stop and think. Thinking is critical to our success in life and work and having such a simple technique to change/prompt/challenge/generate new thought is really powerful. I recall that Wayne Dyer published a book called Change Your Thinking, Change your Life and this title, I feel, very aptly tells us why we need to pay attention to our thinking.

    In this blog I thought I would explore the idea of using what I call ‘magic wand’ questions in the hope that when you are more familiar with them you can start using them more often. Not surprisingly a ‘magic wand’ question is one that enables a more creative and less restricted space in your mind to find new thoughts that your routine and restricted thinking doesn’t allow. 

    One of the best examples of a ‘magic wand’ question is where a care worker was talking with an elderly gentleman who made a comment to her that he’d always dreamed of going on one of Australia’s great train journeys, but that he was now too old to undertake such a journey. Ordinarily the lady admitted that she would empathise with the gentleman and reply that it was a shame that he was now too old.

    However, given that she had undertaken our training on asking Better Questions, she thought for a while and came up with a 'magic wand' question to ask: “I know you think you are too old, but if you thought it was possible to still go on this train journey what would you do?” I hope that you can see that this question acts like a ‘magic wand’ because it takes away the limitation and enables the person to be freed up to think of possible solutions. In this instance it had a profound effect as the gentleman suddenly realised that there was a way he could go on this journey, and whilst it would take a bit of planning and collaboration it was indeed possible. 

    The end result of this question being asked was that the gentleman fulfilled his dream of going on one of Australia’s great train journeys two months after this initial conversation. He worked out that he could indeed undertake the travel with the support of a good neighbour and the tour company. 

    This magical result all started with the Better Question unlocking his routine thinking. No wonder I get excited about asking Better Questions!!!

    Being Open Minded Makes for a Better Questioner!

    13 August 2013 in Better Aged Care |  Leave the first comment

    This week I was reminded of the importance and challenges of being open minded when you wish to be a successful Potentialiser. I personally find that many people say that they are open minded but when it comes to the practice of it; they don’t demonstrate the skill very well. This is particularly evident I believe, if your role in some way suggests that you are an expert or adviser as there is enormous pressure for you to conform and oblige by providing a lot of advice giving, suggestions or answers.

    I was interested to hear from a lady that works at a school that she was impressed that one of her teacher colleagues was open minded because she was willing to acknowledge that her students knew more about technology than she did. In fact she was often seen acknowledging her students for helping her own learning, which of course is a great thing to do. Indeed, being prepared for someone to know more or should I say better than you is a great trait to bring to your role as a Potentialiser.

    What intrigued me after this conversation was my own reflection around wondering whether this teacher would be so willing to hear what her students had to contribute or offer in response to question on a topic that she wasn’t so lacking in knowledge on. An interesting thought!
    I usually find that when people (myself included) are confident and knowledgeable on a topic they easily skip into teacher/adviser mode on the basis that they believe that they know best. How challenging, then is it to acknowledge in these instances that the student (or whomever you are speaking with) could indeed know better/more/different to you and by asking Better Questions you can tap into and release this wisdom. It is all too easy to assume that you are the expert and to offer up your own ideas without even attempting to find out what the other person knows.

    I had a great example of this recently when a Maternal & Child Health nurse was visiting a new Mum in her community and was ready to relay information to her on SIDS. However, before she started relaying the ‘script’ she stopped and thought about how she could approach her role by bringing the skills of a Potentialiser to the table. So she asked the Mum what she knew about SIDS and was quite surprised to hear the Mum reply that she was very well read on the topic and subsequently was able to relay the key points that ordinarily the nurse would articulate. Not only did this save time it also validated the Mum and made her feel more confident and respected.

    So next time you are about to launch into ‘telling’, maybe check on what the other person already knows first, you may be very pleasantly surprised and indeed may learn something yourself in the process.

    Better Question to Generate Ideas and ACTION!

    13 August 2013 in Better Aged Care |  Leave the first comment

    In our training programs we often give participants an opportunity to practice the skills that they learn, which of course helps to consolidate the learning.  During the debrief with one of the groups I heard them say how good the asking of Better Questions had been as it had helped the participant to come up with ideas about what she could do. As soon as I heard the word ‘could’ I jumped in to ask some more questions as I was curious about what the outcomes from the session had been.

    It transpired that the person being asked the Better Questions was really happy that the session had enabled her to generate a few new ideas that she hadn’t thought of before. Whilst this in itself is a great outcome as Better Questions do generate new ideas and thoughts, I challenged the group to think about what else they could have done to take the ideas to the next step and turn them into real action.

    All too often people have ideas but that is exactly what they stay – ideas! If we don’t use questions to enable people to make a decision and commit to action then the conversation is just left ‘hanging’, and the ideas don’t get actioned and nothing moves forward.

    So when you are practicing being a Better Questioner it is good to have in mind the question “What will they do as a result of this conversation?” and if that isn’t clear then I would humbly suggest that there most likely is room for improvement in your practice.

    Let me share some good questions that enable a strong outcome to be achieved:
    •    So of all the options we have discussed what do you think is going to work best?
    •    What are the first steps that you need to take to move this forward?
    •    When will you do this?
    •    When should I check in with you to see how you have gone with that?

    I hope that you can immediately see the power in these questions in terms of moving from ideas to action – good luck in giving these a go and let me know how you progress using them!

    Achieve Better Questions Through Effective Listening

    13 August 2013 in Better Healthcare |  Leave the first comment

    I often have people say to me that no one in their lives listens to them like I listen to them. Whilst I could potentially feel good about this, it usually makes me feel sad because it highlights to me that people in their lives do not often feel really listened to. I’m not sure what your thoughts are but it I certainly think that this is the result of our busyness in life generally, and sometimes our lack of awareness of what a difference being a good listener makes to others.

    I would like to suggest that when someone feels like they are being really listened to it:
    •    engenders feelings of being respected and valued
    •    gives them permission to keep talking
    •    enables them hear their own thoughts out loud – which often gives them insights and ideas that they wouldn’t ordinarily get
    •    creates more empathy, trust, rapport and connection in relationships

    Please reread this list through and I challenge you not to feel excited about the idea of being a better listener.

    Whilst our programs are entitled Better Questions those people that have attended our training or read our books know that we emphasise the skill of listening just as much as questioning – indeed we stress that if you aren’t listening there is no point in trying to be a Better Questioner. So what does it mean to be a good listener?

    I actually think that it isn’t that difficult IF we make a conscious choice to be a listener. I know myself that if I make a decision to truly listen I am able to switch on my best level of listening that I can – try it and see what happens to you. I believe that most of us are absolutely capable of it; it’s just that we don’t make that choice to do it. Once we do make the choice the other person seems to be able to intuitively sense that this is the case and magically you start to get the wonderful positive outcomes that I have highlighted above.

    In a workshop that I ran this week after the practice session one lady commented that she felt really special as a result of the questioner actually demonstrating to her that they were truly interested in her by the way that they chose to listen. In fact she got a teary as she shared this, as she was aware that it was a rare occasion for this to happen in her life and she was very mindful of how powerful it felt to be the beneficiary of this level of listening.

    So my hope from reading this blog is that you start to choose to be a better listener on as many occasions as you can. I accept that sometimes it is challenging to do – after all we are all human, but if you chose to do it on 10% more occasions that you do now imagine what a positive difference this would make in the lives of others. Happy listening!

    Practice Makes Perfect Questioners!

    13 August 2013 in Better Leaders |  Leave the first comment

    In our training programs I will usually end up the session by advising participants of the three P model. As I start to talk about this, people usually grab their pens ready to write down what the model is and then smile at me when I explain that it is simply to:


    I often say that workshops can be like a ‘day spa experience’ which means you go along, have a good time and then go back to doing what you’ve always done – not very inspiring! So my advice to practice is to counteract this from happening to ensure that the opportunities presented at the workshop are maximised and turned into beneficial results.

    I was so heartened over the past two weeks to hear from people that had recently participated in my training programs as they shared some situations where they had PRACTICED PRACTICED PRACTICED and immediately used the skills learnt to great effect.  One person had used it in a really simple scenario where their colleague had approached them for advice and they remembered to turn this around and asked a Better Question. This resulted in their colleague being able to tap into their own resourcefulness and come up with their own effective answer as to what they needed to do.

    Another person advised me how they had used it with their two year old son. During the workshop they had expressed concern about whether it was likely to be effective with such a young child, and my advice is usually, that whilst there will be undoubtedly be times when telling is the way to go, that starting to use a questioning approach as soon as possible with children will be highly beneficial for the child.

    Anyway, the situation that was advised to me was as follows:

    A day or so after attending the Better Questions workshop the parent was doing a puzzle with their son and the son was having trouble connecting the puzzle pieces. The parent realised that they needed o step in to do some ‘telling’ and showed him how to do it. They then let him have another go but he was having trouble with another aspect and was saying, ‘I can’t do it.’ The parent persisted by saying ‘you can do it’ but he continued with ‘I can’t’. The parent then tried ‘We can do it together’ and he jumped right in. The next time, he did it himself!
    No wonder I love teaching this skill.

    The last situation that was shared with me was where a manager was going into a team meeting and needed to advise his team of a change that was taking place and he was ready to simply provide the details by way of an update together with instructions about how to go about making the change. However, because of the training in Better Questions he decided that once he advised the team of the change he would then simply ask questions to engage his team in thinking about and finding their own solutions as to how to best approach the situation.

    He reported that his team enthusiastically participated in the discussion about the change and how they could implement it and actually came up with a number of ideas that the manager admitted he would never have thought of if it had been done his way. He said that he was so surprised by the level of engagement demonstrated by his team in response to him using Better Questions that he intended to keep using the approach going forward.

    Of course I must say WELL DONE! to these amazing people for taking on board the Better Questions message and most importantly for being prepared to try it out in practice.

    What will you do differently this week?

    The Power of Questions

    13 August 2013 in Better Leaders |  Leave the first comment

    I was invited to present at a conference for the Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) very recently and chose to talk about The Power of Questions. So this week I thought I would remind you of some of the reasons why you need to get excited about questions, as they are NOT simply a sentence with a question mark on the end!

    THE most important reason to ask questions is that a Better Question can give us the wonderful opportunity of creating a new thought. Whilst many people could potentially say what’s so special in that, let me remind you that our day to day thinking becomes very routine and habitual and so anything to that gives us the gift of a new thought has to be a good thing. Indeed, I know from experience that a new thought can completely change someone’s life, so don’t underestimate the power of new thought.

    I was working with a client who was sharing with me details of a situation that had been challenging her for many years and I asked her two questions “What has she learnt from the situation about herself?” and “What did she want to choose to do about this awareness?” It was clear that both of these questions enabled her to get some new thinking and awareness about the situation that then empowered and inspired her to resolve to take action to change it. It was so wonderful to hear a few weeks later when I next caught up with her that she had  taken action as a result of her new thinking and that the situation had been completely resolved with an amazingly positive benefit to her. How can you not get excited when you hear updates like this?! It was the question that triggered the new thought and subsequent action that then transformed someone’s life.

    Before I get too carried away let me share just one more reason why Questions are so powerful, on the basis that I will write another Blog soon that highlights more reasons. A Better Question can completely change someone’s perspective on a situation which then can transform their response to it. A simple question like “How else could you see this situation?” or “If you were looking back on this situation in a year from now, what would you say?” can offer the person an opportunity to consciously consider their interpretation of the situation. During this process I find that intense feelings can often be shifted which then completely changes how a person reacts to a situation.

    A great example of this was enabling a client to consider her instinctual reaction to a situation that had caused her some anxiety for many years. Once she became conscious of the thinking that triggered the feeling she chose a new perspective on the situation and magically the situation no longer causes her any anxiety.

    Please watch out for another Blog where I will share more reasons to get excited about questions. In the mean time I hope that what I have shared with you this week  helps you to want to use Better Questions more often!

    Better Questions - Time

    30 August 2013 in Better Aged Care |  Leave the first comment

    TimeIt is interesting for me that without exception when I explain the concept of asking Better Questions one of the most common objections to using the approach is that it will take too much time. I do acknowledge that asking questions instead of providing answers will usually take longer and so understand this reaction.

    What I ask people to consider though is that it will take more time initially but that there are longer term benefits that actually mean you will save time.  Let’s work this through so that it is clear what I mean. Let’s imagine that a person that works with you has gotten used to you always being there and providing answers for them. Their first thought when they are stuck will be to ask you a question, which you have always readily answered for them, and so this becomes an unconscious habit by both parties.

    If we imagine that you now become aware of the benefits of asking Better Questions and start to apply the technique in practice. This means that when the person comes to you for an answer you no longer simply provide a response and ask them a question.. After a while the person starts to realise that when they come to you for help you will only ask them for their own ideas, as it is clear that you are inviting them to think for themselves and take responsibility.

    Of course, as they build their confidence and start to get used to thinking for themselves they will come to realise that they don’t need to come to you at all because they have worked the answer out for themself. I do recognise that in some instances this may take a little time to play out in practice – indeed they may still choose to come to you if they wish to run certain things by you, and also you may ask them still to ensure that certain things are run by you if that level of authority is required.

    Ultimately though I hope that you can see that the frequency of the requests for help will reduce which means in the long run you will actually be saving time by practicing the skill of asking Better Questions. Imagine if you are working with a number of people and that you put this into practice with everyone – the multiplier effect of this time saved can be quite significant, which is an exciting prospect as you can now choose how best to maximise this bonus of available time. Something that doesn’t happen very often in our busy lives and a wonderful positive outcome of asking Better Questions!

    Better Questions for a Better You

    10 September 2013 in Better Aged Care |  Leave the first comment

    As human beings we often get stuck in patterns of thinking because of our daily routines and habits. Some research suggests that we typically we have 95% of the same thoughts again tomorrow as what we had today, which suggest that there is very little room for new thought or indeed change. In this article I’d like to highlight why we should be concerned about our thinking and most importantly will provide some thoughts as to what we can do about it.

    Our thinking is absolutely paramount to our success, yet very few people realise the significance of our daily thoughts and how they are influencing our lives. The diagram below, I hope, will demonstrate to you why this is something we must give our attention to:

    Thoughts to Behaviour

    I personally think that this diagram is quite profound in that it shows us how our thoughts influence everything about what we feel and do and ultimately determines the results that we get in oir lives and work. Quite simply – everything starts with a thought!

    So immediately I hope that you will recognise that being stuck in patterms of routine thinking will mean that we are most likley to keep getting the same reaults that we have always gotten. Of course you can say there may be nothing wrong with this, but if you are on a journey of wanting to be the best that you can be I’d like to humbly suggest that this simply isn’t good enough!

    So what can we do about it? The topic that I am most passionate about in the world is that of asking Better Questions in the knowledge that when I ask people Better Questions I am giving them the gift of some new thought. Maybe prior to reading this article you might not quite have seen the idea of new thought as a ‘gift’ but I hope that you can now see that it is indeed a gift given that new thoughts open up possibilities for change.

    One of the most wonderful examples of how life changing this can be came from a lady that I was working with to teach her the skill of asking Better Questions in the context of a caring role. She was having a conversation with a gentleman who shared that he had always had a dream of going on one of Australia’s great train journeys, but that he knew he was now too old to fulfil that dream. The lady was tempted to empathise and say it was a shame that he wouldn’t now be able to that, but decided instead to ask a Better Question. She said, “I know that you think you are too old to go on that journey, but if you did think it might still be possible what would you do?”

    The impact of the question was immediate. The gentleman sat up, looked excited and advised the lady that he had just thought that a neighbour of his was interested in trains and that he may well be interested in doing something with him. The end result of this inspiring true story was that the gentleman fulfilled his dream of going on one of Australia’s great train journeys two months later.

    I often get quite teary when I recall that story as it beautifully demonstrates how Better Questions can unlock thinking and when our thinking changes THINGS change. So my invitation to you as the reader then is to start to become more conscious of your own thinking and what you can do to create new thought. One option is to simply ask yourself some Better Questions particularly in relation to areas of our lives where we are stuck. Asking ‘how can I’ rather than ‘why’ is a great first step and challenging beliefs can also be powerful eg ‘If I believed I could what would I do?”

    Please remember that bringing the gift of Better Questions to conversations with others as well as your own internal dialogue can be life changing!