Do Questions Create Focus?

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Do Questions Create Focus?

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Years ago I was preparing to facilitate a strategy session with about a dozen business stakeholders and as part of my preparation I researched several business articles and books. One of the most important ideas that occurred to me during this process was that it wasn’t my content, my relevant business experience, or a fancy chart that was going to drive the direction of the session. It wasn’t going to be the statistics, data mining, or popular wisdom, although certainly all of those can be important. What was really going to drive this group to form a new direction were questions, not statements.

Three businesspeople having a meeting in the office with a laptop computer and a digital tablet

The best leaders are experts at asking questions. Sure they can tell people a suggested course of action based on their own experiences, or they can express that doing X will create the desired result Y. Often statements of direction will spring people into action and when some success occurs, the logic is to repeat the previous behavior.

Unfortunately, when the results begin to slow down or even worse, they stop; we often go back to the behaviors that worked before, only this time we do it with more frequency or quantity. The logic is if this worked before, we just need to do more of it. This again is sometimes effective, but eventually we get caught in a circle of action and reaction, people get overwhelmed, overloaded, or grow tired of the same process with diminishing results.

Questions Create Focus

When we want people and teams to really get behind an effort, a strategy, or a new direction, to be bought-in for the future, committed and focused, questions are often the most effective communication method.

Consider these examples of statements for focus:

  • Many businesses are pushing their marketing to more and more digital platforms; we should do more of this.
  • Our biggest competitor just launched a new product that outperforms ours; we need more features on our existing model.

Consider these questions for focus:

  • What is trending in marketing today? How or what do we need to do capture the momentum of any trends?
  • What is the market life-cycle of our product line? What would make our product better?

Telling a person or team to move in a specific direction will get some results, some of the time. Let’s face it, there are many people in the workforce that only react when they are told and there are many workplace cultures that demand an authoritarian approach. However, the most successful cultures, those with motivated, committed, and passionate teams, are typically not lead through this type of approach. Sure we need a variety of knowledge, skills, and abilities in any workplace and many times we need a mix of front line people and management team members. We need soldiers as well as generals. We need people who work towards a specific hourly, daily, or weekly goal, and we need those who are more supervisory or management personnel, and a lot of mixture of both.

When it comes to creating focus, sometimes it is the questions, not statements that cause people to pause and think for themselves. Questions explore solutions without exemplifying problems. Questions create those (ah-ha) moments when it really sinks in and people see the correlation between process and product, action and result.

Use more questions.


Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant, speaker (CSPTM), and coach that specializes in helping businesses and individuals accelerate their leadership, their team, and their success. He is the author of the newly released book, Forgotten Respect, Navigating A Multigenerational Workforce. Reach him through his website at or by calling +1 646.546.5553.

Dennis Gilbert on Google+

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September 29, 2016at 9:15 am

Do you enjoy writing blog posts? Why?

Curious 🙂

    Dennis Gilbert

    September 29, 2016at 10:28 am

    Blogging has its challenges, like much of anything we call work there are ups and downs, times when I enjoy it and times when there is some struggle. I enjoy it most when I know others are reading, interacting, or sometimes emailing me privately about a post.


      September 29, 2016at 10:57 am

      Why do you consider blogging work and not play?

      Playing is more fun, yes?

      Curious 🙂

        Dennis Gilbert

        September 29, 2016at 12:04 pm

        Well, play is definitely more fun when compared with what we call work. I love what I do, absolutely love it, but at the same time there are sometimes hurdles to over come. Blogging can be fun, but sometimes schedule pressures with training, keynotes, or other work makes the schedule very tight to fit everything in. Busy schedules can be stressful for anyone. 🙂


          September 29, 2016at 12:08 pm

          I send you PEACE 🙂


September 29, 2016at 8:56 am

Question: Do you ask or tell more often in your line of work?

Curious 🙂

    Dennis Gilbert

    September 29, 2016at 10:22 am

    Wow, that is is a great question. Honestly, I do a lot of telling, but when I’m trying to really get deep into learning points, I start to use more questions. Questions help create the focus, so for me, some telling up front, and then often followed up with questions that drive thinking.


      September 29, 2016at 10:27 am

      Excellent approach! Always wondered …

      Thank You

      Curious 🙂

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