Using the Right Question at the Right Time is a Powerful Way to Shift

A profound way to begin to shift yourself or your culture at work is to find the transformational question that will help you to think differently, help your team to take on a new challenge, or help your organization to get engaged in a new vision.

Sometimes the right question, asked at the right time can be transformational. In January 2014 as I was making a note of my goals for the year in my journal and thinking about starting to write A Better Place To Work: Daily Practices That Transform Culture, I found myself writing this question:

What will you do differently to achieve these goals?

It’s a great question, and caused me to take some courses, create some writing rituals and make the time for research and writing.

I ended up using a similar question to form the through-line of my book, simply “What will we do differently to create a better place to work?”  Think about that. What simple thing can you personally do differently each day that will impact your workplace in a positive way?  What different team practice can you introduce that will shift the culture in your team meetings?

The answer to any transformational question will likely require you to step out of your comfort zone and challenge you to learn new ways of leading. Shifting your culture to one where people can flourish and succeed means doing things differently. I urge clients to keep this question in mind as they work towards positive change.

I had to step out of my comfort zone to write this book. As Rebecca Jackson asks in this quote:

“Have you ever let go of something that simultaneously protects and strangles you; something that both defines you, but also suffocates your evolution? Just like a snake shedding its skin, you have to lose something critical to grow, leaving you vulnerable and exposed in the process.” (found in Whitney Johnson’s Disrupt Yourself)

How true! I was running the conference so long it defined me, but kept me so busy it did not allow me the time to write. Instead of speaking and writing books in my chosen field of organizational health, most of my time was spent organizing a conference. A great event, but it was time to move on. To answer the question in my journal I had to lose something critical to grow. In this transition, as Jackson says, you feel vulnerable and exposed. That’s disruption; a necessary part of growth.

Here’s another simple question I like to ask when I need to make a shift: “What do I need to let go of? Continue? Or start?” Once, when I was recovering from burnout I asked myself this question. I made a list of all the things I wanted to let go of—unsustainable patterns that led to exhaustion and unhappiness, and were barriers to flourishing. A few of the patterns on that list were:

  • Holding on to things past their usefulness.
  • Living by other people’s agendas.
  • Letting other people’s crises become my own.

Just creating your own list like this will help you to reflect on the aspects of your life that take you in a downward spiral.

I then asked what I was doing that I wanted to continue. And finally, “What practices do I want to start that will help me to flourish?” I made a list and started to focus on this regularly. It’s a much more inspiring list and makes me happy just to look at it! On this list were habits like:

  • Creating the time and space for my priorities.
  • Meditating daily.
  • Practicing gratitude.

What is on your list of habits to stop or let go of? What about the ones that you will continue, or even start?

From an organizational perspective, asking transformational questions helps you to understand what employees want and need. Here is a short excerpt from the book on using questions to help you become “positively deviant” at work:

Transformational questions help you to gain knowledge that can be incorporated into your change effort, but they are also a way of getting people involved. The question you use will help you create a new, shared vision and will be as unique as your organizational culture is. Just as I suggest for every other practice in this book, take the time to tailor your questions to fit your organization so that they will be truly transformational in nature.

Here are some examples of questions that, if used at the right time and in the right way, can have a powerful effect on transforming your team:

  • What do we want our culture to be?
  • What is the most powerful action we can take right now?
  • How can we work with what is available?
  • Where are we? Where do we need to go?
  • What do we believe in?
  • How does this fit with our purpose and vision?

The question “Who am I when I am at my best?” can also be a transformational question. When I am working with a group, I will often send this exercise out ahead of time and ask people to try it. When we debrief during the workshop and I ask them about their experience with it, what I most often hear is “the feedback makes me want to be at my best more often.” Isn’t this exactly the kind of transformation we want of our team members? It’s the kind of question that shifts thinking in a positive way and helps people become the best they can be.

This blog describes one of the over fifty practices Deborah shares in her new book A Better Place To Work: Daily Practices That Transform Culture. Follow this blog for weekly ideas on new practices to create your “better place to work.”

Want to know more about practices that transform workplace culture? Follow this blog for weekly ideas to create your “better place to work” from Deborah’s new book A Better Place To Work: Daily Practices That Transform Culture. 

If you want to delve deeper into these practices, join Deborah’s online course “8 Weeks To A Better Place To Work” starting again October 18/18. Log in every week from the comfort of your office or home and join others, like you, who are engaging in new practices to improve the health and positivity in their workplaces. A complimentary copy of A Better Place To Work will be sent to you as a part of this course. It’s like a book club, with online coaching – fun, informative and hugely practical!

Order your copy of A Better Place To Work: Daily Practices That Transform Culture, with reduced prices available for bulk orders for your team and organization.

Deborah Connors

Deborah Connors teaches leaders to radically shift culture so that people can flourish. She is an engaging speaker, storyteller, author and coach.

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