The Quest In Questions

Posted  | 0 Comment(s)  |  by Kris Girrell

Most of the work of coaching and of coaches is asking good questions. However, the problem is that in an age of instant answers (Wikipedia, Google and Bing!), most folks have lost an appreciation for questions. We, in fact, think that not only should all questions be instantly answered, they all must have an answer – all information is knowable and accessible. And so big questions – the really good ones you ponder – have fallen out of grace.


waterfallOn Quest on the Brazilian/Argentine Border

I am not so sure. There is a great deal in the realm of development that points to the fact that living with a question that has no perceivable answer is the only place powerful enough to force us to develop new thoughts and new approaches. It is a concept as old as leadership development itself. The ancient masters would pose questions to their students which could not be answered – questions ranging from mathematical algorithms and paradoxical stories to the classic Zen koans (What is the sound of one hand clapping?).

Having a question as a leader puts us in motion. It sharpens the mind and focuses our attention. Not why questions, like, “Why did you do that?” but howand what questions. Good leaders are always asking questions like, “How can we do more with less for greater value?” “What can be done to make this better for us and our customers?” Each question launches on a quest for an answer. The better the question, the better the quest – at term literally defined as the search to acquire or secure something.

Borrowing (and slightly modifying) the Native American ritual of the Vision Quest, what if we allowed our corporate visions to inform and guide our quest(ion)ing? One local pharma company has a vision of curing cancer – seriously! Each of the nearly 1000 employees has folded an origami paper crane with their individual wish– his or her quest as it were – written on it as a personal pursuit of that vision. A thousand paper cranes, the Japanese legend has it, will make your deepest wish come true. That company, I contend, is on a vision quest!

Business has become trapped in the cycle of productivity that feels limiting and confining. How liberating might it be if we brought back the notion of quest to our questioning! What if coaching and coaches took on the role of guides – not so much from the aspect of leading and showing the way but in stirring up the questions that launch great quests? I think I could get into that!

Kris Girrell
Career Partners International

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