Ask Powerful Questions… Creating Conversations that Matter – A Book Review
Will Wise’s book, “Ask Powerful Questions,” was one of my summer reads this year, and once started, I couldn’t put it down. If you’ve read any of my previous book summary blogs, you will notice that three things typically hook me about new books: 1) the subtitle (it’s got to be catchy and relatable); 2) the size of the book (the smaller the better); and 3) the first chapter (which has to grab me). Wise’s book met, and exceeded, all my criteria. This is a great book if you are experiencing any of the following:
- Relationships with others seem superficial or lack depth.
- You’re answering a lot of questions from your team about stuff they should already know.
- You suspect there’s more going on (with anything) and you’re just not getting all the information.
- You’re unsure of how to help others grow and develop.
- You’re looking for new ways to improve performance of the team or organization.
- You’re having a hard time listening or staying focused in conversation.
The chapters in the book mirror the author’s model of Asking Powerful Questions in the form of a pyramid. Working up from the bottom of the pyramid, the sections are: intention, rapport, openness, listening, and empathy. Within each chapter, Wise describes the traps (where people get stuck) in each section of the pyramid, and helpful antidotes and tools that are easily actionable. At the end of each chapter, there’s a summary of the core concepts (my favorite part!).
Here’s a sampling of some memorable takeaways from the book:
- Change the way you ask questions. Start questions with “what” or “how” and make questions about the process, not the person. Wise cautions against beginning questions with “why,” which can lead to defensive and scripted responses and could seem more like judgment than curiosity.
- Wise provides a fantastic model for reflective listening that helps the listener be more actively engaged with the speaker and creates better understanding between different parties (starting on page 127).
- Chapter 5 is about empathy – there’s some great material that addresses situations where there’s difference of perspective or just a difficult conversation.
Many of you know that I’m a big fan of “Crucial Conversations.” If you are as well, pick up this book. They complement each other well and add plenty of tools in a leader’s toolbox.