Two-year olds are notorious for asking questions as they explore their universe. As an adult, after the umpteenth time being asked Why, we are annoyed and react emotionally with 'because it is so' to end the conversation.
Questions are considered 'powerful' instead of annoying when they provide clarity and focus. They are used to engage others into a conversation to build relationships, and/or trigger a powerful emotional state (think of the two year old). Vocabulary of the question is also important to assess the impact/power of the question. Consider the surface question of 'How was your day today?'. This question does not generate much excitement or reaction. The most common reply to this question is 'fine' (think of a teenager). To engage more, consider asking 'What excited you today?' or 'what happened today that may you mad?'
Linda Duffy, founder of Ethos Human Capital Solutions (http://www.ethosHCS.com), guided us through an interactive hour of learning why power questions are important, how to model power questions that you need to ask yourself, and lastly provided samples of power questions useful in growing your career. What power questions should you ask your boss? What power questions should you ask your peers? What power questions should you ask your mentor? What power questions should you ask yourself to 'live by'?
The connection between your language, your physiological state, and your focus/beliefs will formulate your power questions.
- For language, are you asking yourself, 'Why is this happening?' versus 'What can I do to change this?'
- What state of mind are you in? Can you embody the most important emotional state that supports your career? Is your emotional state timid or confident?
- Your focus and values dictate the quality and type of questions you ask. Did the Google founders ask 'how do we build a search engine?' or did they ask 'how do we organize the entire world's information and make it accessible and useful?'
Are they asking the right power question?
Before you can ask any power question to your boss/mentor/peer/others, you have to get in the mode of making sure your power question to yourself is not self-defeating. Your brain will always try to answer your own internal question all day whether you like it or not. Do not ask yourself, 'why can't I make more money?'...Ask yourself.... 'How can I add even more value?' or 'what can I conquer today?'. Make sure you are in an emotional state that supports your career goals.
Need a power question to get you started?
- For your boss, ask 'how do you measure success for my position?'
- For your peers, ask 'Is this the best we can do?'
- For your mentors, ask 'What do you know now that you wish you had known at my stage in my career?'
- For yourself, ask 'if you knew you could not fail, what would you do?'
A special shout-out to Helen Norris, CIO of Chapman University who hosted our event on the Chapman campus. We also would like to thank Shan Steinmark, Director, Leatherby Center for Entrepreneurship and Business Ethics Clinical Associate Professor, for use of his classroom for the evening. A big supporter of women's group, Stan is seeking mentors for his student teams. Over 57% of his students are women. He is seeking mentors who know their capacity limits for providing quality (mentor/support) time with the student teams. If you are interested in mentoring Chapman's student teams, Stan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo of Helen Norris, Lisa Williams, Kathy Lomax
A special thank you to Lisa Williams at Kforce (https://www.kforce.com/office-locations/irvine-california) for sponsoring the event. Did you know that Kforce stands for KnowledgeForce® describing their highly skilled professionals, their knowledge gained from over 50 years of experience, and the power of their team to provide the Right Match™. At Kforce, Great People = Great Results.