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Agile Coaches' Corner shares practical concepts in an approachable way. It is for agile practitioners and business leaders seeking expert advice on improving the way they work to achieve their desired outcomes. If you have a topic you'd like discussed, email it to, or tweet it with #agilethoughtpodcast.

Jun 5, 2020

This week, Dan Neumann is joined by a special return guest Christy Erbeck! Christy is a Principal Transformation Consultant at AgileThought and a Certified Dare to Lead™ Facilitator. She has over 25 years of experience in domestic and international consulting, training and coaching, and working in both software development and non-product-focused environments, including manufacturing (discrete and process), distribution, and sales and marketing.


Today, they’re going to be exploring the topic of how to ask powerful questions. Powerful questions can lead to powerful change if they are asked in the right way. In this episode, Christy explains what makes a question powerful vs. a not-so-powerful one, how to ask powerful questions, when and when not to ask a powerful question, and important qualities and skills for a facilitator or coach to have that is asking these powerful questions. Christy also shares some fantastic resources for further reading on the subject and provides some examples of what powerful questions look like!


Key Takeaways

What makes a ‘powerful question?’

A powerful question is one that gets the person being asked to think about the situation in a way that they may not have if the question had not been asked

Powerful questions elicit a thoughtful response

They provide a way to help the individual being asked to become ‘unstuck’

The Co-Active Training Institute defines a powerful question as: “A provocative query that puts a halt to evasion and confusion”

The person asking the question is inviting the client to clarity, action, and discovery at an entirely new level

They help people think differently

How to ask powerful questions:

Kickstart coaching sessions by asking, “What’s on your mind?” to simply begin the conversation in a way that allows the coachee to bring forward a topic in a way that is non-judgemental and invites additional inquiry

Ask a question in a neutral way versus a ‘loaded’ way

Stay neutral and ask the question in a curious way rather than in a judgemental way

Use the Five Whys technique

Take into consideration the layering and sequencing of the questions you’re asking

Make sure that the person you’re engaging with is interested and engaged

Ask yourself if you have earned the right to ask the question in the first place (i.e. a level of mutual respect has been reached and the person being asked believes you to be credible)

Important qualities and skills for a facilitator or coach asking these powerful questions to have:

Understand what type of questions or decision-making needs to happen in the moment

Understand the different types of questions and the different intents and outcomes that those questions will provide

Have a natural curiosity and perspective of care when working with clients

Create space and allow for silence for people to answer the questions

When shouldn’t you ask a powerful question?

When you don’t have time to debrief and explore

Potentially, in a group setting (it is important to consider the dynamic of the room)

Ask yourself, “Is now the time to ask this question?” because the trust and safety may not be strong enough yet to be asking certain questions

Questions that are uninvited, at an inappropriate time, or out of line

Examples of powerful questions:

“What do we need to do to wrap this up and have clarity around our next steps?”

“What’s preventing us from moving forward?”

“What’s keeping [decision] from actually being enacted?”

“Tell me more” questions

Clarification questions

Open-ended questions such as who, what, when, where, why, and how

Powerful resources to learn more about powerful questions:

The Co-Active Training Institute

The Coaching Habit, by Michael Bungay Stanier

The Complete Book of Questions, by Garry D. Poole

Vertellis — a card game


Mentioned in this Episode:

Co-Active Training Institute

The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever,
by Michael Bungay Stanier

Five Whys Technique

The Complete Book of Questions: 1001 Conversation Starters for Any Occasion,
by Garry D. Poole

Vertellis card game


Christy Erbeck’s Book Picks:

Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs, by John Doerr

Employee Experience: Develop a Happy, Productive and Supported Workforce for Exceptional Individual and Business Performance, by Ben Whitter


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