The Art of Powerful Questions

The Art of Powerful Questions

Have you ever noticed the impact of a great question? Well-placed questions can enlighten, can generate new possibilities, and profoundly change what we do and how and what we think and feel. Like great art, a powerful question impacts us at our core.

What makes for a great question? It starts with the questioner. What is her intention? Is she curious or is she advocating? Is he nosy or does he deeply care for your best interest? Next, a powerful question avoids a simple yes or no answer. It begs for multiple responses, and in the question, we may be inspired to stay in the question for hours or even days.

Have you ever noticed that the most memorable and generative conversations are filled with questions? And the questions create even more questions. Hours can pass and it can feel like a few moments.

Try asking questions rather than providing answers when someone asks you for advice.

Here are some examples to help you get started:

  • What would be an ideal situation for you?
  • What do you want to be known for?
  • If your legacy were represented by something in nature, what would it be?
  • What makes your efforts worthwhile?
  • What are some of the other possibilities you’d like to see emerge?
  • What consequences might the change bring about?
  • What can you do to make things better?
  • What could happen for you to feel satisfied? Why would you benefit from that?
  • What prevents you from asking for what you want?
  • What’s the worst that could happen?
  • What’s the best that could happen?
  • How will you know it when you get what you want?

Give it a try and let us know how it goes.

Adversity Reveals Character

“Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome.”

– Booker T. Washington

When walking the other day, this amazing event happened – a tiny ant dragging a large (but quite dead) centipede. It became the highlight of my walk – and I was ensconced with this marvel of nature – and ants. This little fellow appeared to have succeeded, despite its size.


It dragged its treasure over 25 feet before disappearing into its anthill. I can only imagine the cheers several feet below, to personify the ant world.

“Good ant, Jeremy! We knew you could do it!”, or “Annie, you are some ant, and so very generous to bring us lunch!”.

Regardless of what might have been said, we have a lot to learn about nature if we pay attention.

The Takeaway

My takeaway was this: Be clear about what we want, why we want it, focus on how, and put in the hard work to get it. But not at any cost. Who we are as we pursue our life’s intentions is as important as how we go about getting them. Adversity reveals character, and as we pursue our intentions, we will face both obstacles and support from outside and inside of us. We are a part of the larger human community, and we owe it to our community to live with integrity, respect one another, and remain mindful of the impact and the benefit of our intentions.

If it’s for the greater good – go for it, without question. If it is self-focused, go for it after careful reflection


-Micki McMillan


Business is Personal; How Conflict Can Make You a Better Leader

“The people to fear are not those who disagree with you, but those who disagree with you and are too cowardly to let you know.”

-Napoleon Bonaparte

We know that conflict isn’t fun. Yet we know that without engaging in productive conflict, the result can be anywhere from the ‘silent treatment’ all the way to a violent outcome.

Leaders owe it to themselves and to their organizations to create an environment that encourages robust, generative, and effective conflict conversations among all associates.

Conflict is an incompatibility between two or more interests. And it is inevitable – at work or home. Conflict — when effectively managed — is a dynamic force for innovation and change. Your organization can actually benefit from conflict. The key is knowing how to manage conflict and use it for good.

Work Through Conflict

The next time you have a disagreement, step up and find a way to engage in a productive conversation about it. Here are a few key steps to help you get to and through conflict:

Step 1: Prepare. Exactly what do you disagree with? Why?

Step 2: Set the tone and present the content and context of your disagreement.

Step 3: Request the other to just listen, and promise to do the same after you have presented your view.

Step 4: Ask if the other is prepared to engage in a conversation with you. If so, sit quietly and listen.

Step 5: Together, identify potential solutions to the disagreement.

Give it a try and see how it goes. You may find that your relationship improves, not to mention your own sense of esteem for having had the courage to speak your truth.

-Micki McMillan