Machen MacDonald: Are questions the answer? |

Machen MacDonald: Are questions the answer?

Machen MacDonald

I’ve found many young executives I coach think they should always have the answers. Often times, they offer good answers, just not the best answers. For that matter, many seasoned executives fall into the same trap.

The way to eventually offer the best answer is by being patient and asking good provocative questions. I’ve found even in my own business, not being so quick to offer up the answer can lead to accessing a collective wisdom available in the room that otherwise would not be available without the generation of useful questions.

The quickest way to assemble a puzzle is by having all the pieces and having a sense of what picture is on the box. There are ways to offer relevant meaningful answers and there are sure fire ways to offer irrelevant useless answers.

The way to derive and offer good answers and solutions is through genuine curiosity via specific questioning. The way to offer answers that detract from productivity are through assumptions, the ego’s need to always be right.

I’m sure everyone reading this has found themselves making assumptions that lead them in the wrong direction, or felt a need to be right and argued to the point of estrangement.

So as to avoid the fate of ending up in the cul-de-sac of average answers that keeps us away from the breakthroughs, discoveries, and positive redirections we seek, let’s start asking the right questions.

Questions hold the key

Think CURIOSITY questions to derive the best possible answers:

Clarifying — These questions help you to see what is really going on and cut though the judgement, stories, and drama that causes holdback: What do you mean? What caused this? How did you get to this point?

Understanding — These help to discover the true goals, desires, and objectives: What do you want? What does success look like? If you achieved that, what would that give you?

Ready — Often people get stuck because they are not clear on what their next steps are. These questions help to determine what development needs to take place: What do you need in order to achieve this? Are you willing to do this? Do you feel prepared?

In-the-way — These are questions that help one to see what they perceive to be in their ways as they stray from their vision. These types of questions can eliminate overwhelm: What’s in the way? What prevents you from handling this? What mistakes might you make?

Objective — These questions increase awareness of limiting judgments, opinions, and assumptions: What’s the judgement around that? What was done that triggered that reaction? What information or data are you choosing to ignore?

Strategy — These questions give rise to the awareness of how to best move forward: What is your plan? What is your first step? What is the right next action?

Insight — Many people are much more resourceful than they take credit for. These questions play into that and access their inner wisdom and promote their best thinking: What would you do differently? What haven’t I asked that I should have? What is the simplest solution here?

Time — These questions build commitment and accountability: By when do you want to have this completed? How will you make the time to get this accomplished? What activities might you need to defer or eliminate to stay on track with this?

Yes — These questions are all about possibility: What will it look like when you succeed? What if there were no limits? What would you do next if you knew you could not fail?

These are just but a limited amount of CURIOSITY questions. In truth, the only imposed limit on the number of questions we can come up with in each area is to the degree we assume and judge.

Eliminate assumptions, judgment, and final evaluations and the possibilities are endless. To that point, be mindful of not questioning for questioning sake.

Many times, there is a sufficient answer without diving into an excess of questions. Maintain awareness if you are in the shallow or deep end of the pool of problems and possibilities and jump accordingly.

This week, I challenge you to not have the answers. Seek the answer through being curious. Notice what you didn’t even know you didn’t know. That’s were the solutions and breakthroughs reside.

For a complete list of CURIOSITY questions, you can download, visit

Make it up, make it fun, and get it done!

#1 bestselling author Machen P. MacDonald, CPCC, CCSC is a certified life and business coach with ProBrilliance Leadership Institute in Grass Valley. He helps business people gain more confidence and clarity to live their ideal life. He can be reached at and 530-273-8000.

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