Chapter 1. Questions That Get Results

Have you ever been in a meeting where the participants ramble on, talking over and around the topic(s) on the agenda, and the conversation goes nowhere? Usually in this situation, one of two things will happen. You will either be lucky enough to have an effective manager who will step in early and ask the right questions that lead everyone to the heart of the issue, or you will be cursed with a bad manager who lets the rambling go on and on before he or she eventually says, "Okay, we have to move on now."

Commonly, people believe that the ability of highly qualified managers to ask the right questions at the right time is an innate skill, something that cannot be taught. In fact, such managers prepare in advance. They spend time learning which questions to ask and when and how to apply them appropriately to each new situation. They craft pertinent, relevant questions long before they have a need to use them. Great managers develop their skill sets so that they can motivate, coach, cut through the fluff, and hold people accountable. Utilizing the right questions at the right time helps them do that.

Patrick once attended a board meeting at which one of the participants had been talking around a problem for 45 long, tedious minutes. Then, another board member arrived late and joined the discussion. He asked two or three pointed questions that immediately uncovered the causes of the problem and offered several possible solutions. Not only did he ...

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