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5 Questions You Should Start Asking Today

communication May 24, 2021

Have you been in meetings with co-workers, a direct report, or customers, and didn't accomplish what you had hoped? Perhaps the conversation wandered off track and may have even required a follow up meeting, since the first didn't achieve the objectives?

The 5 Questions Breakthrough Tool reveals the priorities, concerns, and ideas of others in a positive and solution-focused way. These questions are a simple, yet effective, way to understand others' needs, keep conversations on track, incorporate collective needs into solutions, and gain buy-in.

Ultimately, these questions lead to better collaboration!

One remarkable aspect of The 5 Questions is the number of situations they can be used in, such as:

  • When starting a new position, you can ask these questions of your boss, direct reports, and peers to get a sense of what their priorities and challenges are, which helps make your goals and priorities clearer.
  • Conducting focus groups to make improvements to customer service, or team processes.
  • Employee surveys to gain insight into employee perceptions, concerns, and priorities.
  • Employee coaching sessions or performance reviews to identify strengths and areas for improvement.
  • Evaluating new programs or processes after an initial introductory period.
  • Pre-questions sent out before a planning session as a primer to create productive dialogue.

What are the 5 Questions?

First, determine the focus and set the stage for participants so they are clear about the context for their answers to these questions:

1. What’s working well?
This question is designed to surface the benefits and positives of whatever you are examining. It starts the conversation on a positive note.

2. What could be done better, differently, or more often?
This question introduces the need for change in a non-threatening way. It opens people to possibilities. It is positive and future-focused. By looking across the suggestions, begin to think about what the changes have in common so that they can be grouped into a few of the most critical thoughts.

3. What’s preventing the improvements identified in #2?
This question is designed to surface barriers to the changes. People may begin to recognize obstacles that they didn’t know about, thereby, helping them to understand your challenges. Again, look at what the barriers have in common, focusing on the critical few.

4. If only one change can be made, what should it be?
This question can bring a strong focus on the most important change that needs to be made. When you can successfully tackle something many people (or key people) want, it signals that change is possible. People will become energized. Then, you can build on the momentum that’s been created. And, remember, addressing others’ priorities will encourage them to help you with your own.

5. How can you help?
By asking people how they might help, you can accomplish two things:

  • They may recognize that they themselves are barriers to the improvements.
  • You can develop a resource pool based on skills, talent, knowledge, ideas, and experiences of the group.
  • Note: If using these questions with external customers, you may choose to leave this one out.


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