Change Your Questions, Change Your Life

Posted November 1, 2013 in Decision Making, What We're Reading

By: Marilee G Adams

Reviewed by: Glain Roberts-McCabe

The Premise: It’s not about having the right answers…it’s about having the right questions. This is the core of Marilee Adams’ book Change Your Questions, Change Your Life. The book walks the reader through the story of Ben, a newly minted senior leader at a company that’s in a tailspin. Ben, who prides himself on being the “answer man”, quickly finds himself drowning at work and putting his marriage in jeopardy at home as he tries to do it all. With the help of his benevolent boss and an executive coach named Joseph, Ben learns how to become a Question Thinker and saves his career and his marriage. The book provides a good summary of some classic executive coaching tools as well as techniques and practices that you can use to improve your ability to listen and ask questions.

The Bottom-line: The biggest thing I took from this book was the concept of the “Choice Map”. Essentially the idea that, as we enter conversations, we make a choice: we either enter as a “learner” or as a “judger” through the questions that we ask. Most of the time we are in judgement mode: “Why did they do that?” “What were they thinking?” By changing our questions, (“How might I help them?” “What could I do differently?”) we automatically change the dynamic of the conversation and the relationship with the other person. Approaching conversations as a “learner” forces you to shift perspectives and changes the mental model or assumptions that you may have built up about the person or situation at hand. Personally, I found the fable in this book to be poorly written and the overall story a little to “Walt Disney”. However, if you can get past that, there are a number of great nuggets and solid techniques that you can take away. The book is a good coaching primer for managers who are new to the concept of “manager as coach” and there are great question samples and exercises for anyone looking to further deepen their coaching skills.

Recommendation: Good entry-level book for new managers / individuals interested in taking a more “coach approach” at work.

Check out the book and website

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