“The Art of Effective Questions:  Asking the right question for the desired result”

Guest Post by Irene Leonard

The Value of questions

“Asking good questions is productive, positive, creative, and can get us what we want.”  

Most people believe this to be true and yet people do not ask enough good questions. Perhaps one of the reasons for this is that effective questioning requires it be combined with effective listening.

Effective questions help you:

  • Connect with your clients in a more meaningful way
  • Better and more fully understand your client’s problem
  • Have clients experience you as an understanding, competent lawyer
  • Work with your staff more effectively
  • Help your staff take responsibility for their actions and solve problems within the workplace more easily
  • Cross examine more effectively
  • Take revealing depositions
  • Gather better information
  • Do more solution oriented problem solving
  • Improve your negotiating skills
  • Reduce mistakes
  • Take the sting out of feedback
  • Defuse volatile situations
  • Get cooperation
  • Plant your own ideas
  • Persuade people

Effective Questions

Effective questions are questions that are powerful and thought provoking. Effective questions are open-ended and not leading questions. They are not “why” questions, but rather “what” or “how” questions. “Why” questions are good for soliciting information, but can make people defensive so be thoughtful in your use of them. When asking effective questions, it is important to wait for the answer and not provide the answer.

When working with people to solve a problem, it is not enough to tell them what the problem is. They need to find out or understand it for themselves. You help them do this by asking them thought provoking questions. Rather than make assumptions find out what the person you are talking to knows about the problem.

For example: “What do you think the problem is?”

Behind effective questioning is also the ability to listen to the answer and suspend judgment. This means being intent on understanding what the person who is talking is really saying. What is behind their words? Let go of your opinions so that they don’t block you from learning more information. Pay attention to your gut for additional information.

Powerful Questions

The following are examples of typical questions. These questions can help you improve your communication and understanding of the client or staff member.

  1. Identification of issue:
    These questions can be used in client interviews and meetings, settlement negotiations and to work with others in solving problems.

What seems to be the trouble?
What do you make of _________?
How do you feel about _____________?
What concerns you the most about _____________?
What seems to be the problem?
What seems to be your main obstacle?
What is holding you back from _________________?
What do you think about doing X this way?

  1. Further information:
    These questions can be used in depositions and to find out what someone has already done to resolve a work problem.

What do you mean by __________?
Tell me more about _______________
What else?
What other ways did you try so far?
What will you have to do to get the job done?

  1. Outcomes:
    These questions can be used in settlement negotiations or while working with staff to plan how to do something.

How do you want ____________ to turn out?
What do you want?
What is your desired outcome?
What benefits would you like to get out of X?
What do you propose?
What is your plan?
If you do this, how will it affect ________ ?
What else do you need to consider?

  1. Taking Action:
    These questions can be used in working with staff.

What will you do? When will you do it?
How will I know you did it?
What are your next steps?

Note from Bob – The wisdom that Irene has shared here reminds me of something my life long mentor Bobb Biehl shared with me many years ago:  “If you ask profound questions, you get profound answers.  If you ask shallow questions, you get shallow answers.  And if you ask no questions, you get no answers at all.”




Irene Leonard, JD & MCC, Lawyer Business Coach, as well as teaching people the value of effective questions, Irene practices the art of effective questions to help her clients achieve their professional goals faster and with great results.  You can connect with Irene @ CoachingForChange.com or LawPractice-Management.com



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2 thoughts on ““The Art of Effective Questions: Asking the right question for the desired result”

  1. mr. tiede thank you for putting this page on the internet. I would like your permission to print it off to share with my adult acquired brain injury support group mmbers. some of us have to some extent been able to return near normal other unfortunately are unlikely to be able to form sentences with more than four or five words. having a set of guidline questions will I am sur help the rest of us be able to at least relate to the non abi owning public in a way that will allow us to share our experiences by being able to understand what we are being asked by non abi owners. to put it another way I think having a tool like this will allow us to learn and them to learn from us .
    hope to hear from you soon. again thanks john la berge

    1. Bob Tiede says:

      John, I would be honored! You have my permission! My only request would be for you to include this statement “Reprinted with Permission of LeadingWithQuestions.com” Thank You!

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