The Generative Power of a Question

Reflections and learning
21st January 2018


The transition to the New Year always creates a desire to take stock….where am I now in relation to what I wanted to achieve last year?

This year is no different. Although, in one way, it’s completely different. It’s the first New Year without my dad. He died on 2nd February last year so we’re approaching the first anniversary of his death.



It starts with family 

Dad enjoyed marking the transition to the New Year especially when surrounded by his family. He invariably made a speech at midnight and encouraged others to do the same. It created a strong sense of being fully seen and heard. As if your personhood was being authenticated.

In my younger years the evening meal (tea-time in our house) was a time when the family gathered around the table and shared a story from their day. After me and my siblings left home, and returned for holidays, the tea-time gathering took on a festive vibe.

They were great listeners, my mum and dad. It was probably no surprise then that I followed a career path that involved listening and became a mental health nurse. It was deeply humbling to be part of someone’s journey to recovery through a profound human connection.



The art of listening

Many years later, and now an Executive Coach and Facilitator, I draw on the same passion and capacity for listening and building a human connection.

It’s easy in such an action-orientated digital world to dismiss the value of listening. Yet time and time again I’m reminded by clients in their testimonials just how much they value the space to think and be fully heard.

Reflective journaling can be a powerful adjunct to coaching and helps bring our inner voices into conscious awareness. I’m reminded of EM Forster’s words:



“How do I know what I think until I see what I say”



Coaching conversations help bring clarity and purpose. While listening is a big part of the offering, the ability to ask the right question at the right moment is also part of the alchemy. A fellow systemic coach – Michael Cahill of Market Matters – recently reminded me that “the brain works best in the presence of a question”.  



What makes a good question? 

A powerful question can encourage deep personal reflection, pattern-changing insights and life-changing action.

What then forms the basis of a powerful question? Drawing on The Art of Powerful Questions here’s how I can tell when I have chosen the right question. It is one that:



  • Makes the client pause and reflect deeply
  • Surfaces previously hidden dynamics and entanglements
  • Generates energy and forward movement



In evaluations, clients often pinpoint a defining moment in the coaching sessions. They can even relate it to one question that stayed with them and became a turning point in their journey of growth and development. Like finding their bearings in a storm.

For me there is no greater reward than to see clients go forth with fresh insights, resolution and renewed energy. So as I approach my sixth year as an Executive Coach with TurningTides, this blog is in honour of my family for laying the foundations in the art of generative communication.



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