Master The Socratic Method

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Socrates is famous for saying “the unexamined life is not worth livingâ€.  His method was by using questions, rather than statements, assertions or commands to understand situations.

For instance, instead of saying “we need to improve our customer service!†we might ask, “how is our customer service impacting on customer retention, size of purchases, referral rates, etc.�  We know that in sales, you’re more likely to succeed with a prospect by looking him/her in the eye and asking questions about his/her business, rather than reading slides talking about his own company. Similarly, the key to great leadership, especially when coaching, is to ask insightful (and often carefrontational!) questions.

Power Questions: Build Relationships, Win New Business and Influence Others is a recent book that will stimulate your thinking. Andrew Sobel and Jerold Panas focus on how great questions:

  • Invite others to contribute their expertise,
  • Draw out others’ experiences,
  • Clarify the meaning of words,
  • Encourage thinking through issues,
  • Solicit solutions from other
  • Enable others to gain self-confidence
  • Synthesize issues and see the big picture

They identify 337 questions to help you succeed at life and work, with detailed analysis of two dozen. Here are a few samples;

  • To better understand someone: “What in your life has given you the greatest fulfillment?†How did you get started in this business?
  • To get superior performance: “Is this the best you can do?†(Allegedly, Henry Kissinger asked this question of someone several times, and when the person finally said, “yesâ€, then he said “good, now I’ll read it.â€)
  • To wrap up a sales call: “What question haven’t I asked?â€
  • To delve into a person’s psyche: “What was the most difficult question you’ve ever b been asked?â€
  • When making a tough decision of how to confront someone who has violated your trust, ask yourself “ if the circumstances were turned around, how would you like to be treated?â€

If you’re taking time to reflect on life, work, family, etc., I highly recommend the book.  And then share with us all – what’s the most insightful new question that you learned to ask?â€