This weeks ATQ is about powerful question. Last year I worked together with Deborah Preuss who is probably an even bigger fan of powerful questions than I am. She wrote a nice introduction to the quiz, that I decided to publish together with the answers.
We hope this quiz teaches (or reminds) you of  at least one practice for your people-skills toolkit!

1) What makes a question “powerful”?

A) It conveys the questioner’s strong desire for change.

B) It sets a clear direction for answerers to follow.

C) It evokes the answerer’s wisdom.

D) It is specific to the answerer’s context.

E) It is easily answered.

F) It has never been asked before.

2) Which of these is (or are) evidence that question has been “powerful”?

A) The energy in the room shifts.

B) There is a pause, while a deep breath is taken.

C) Body language indicates curiosity.

D) One or more of the above may happen.

E) It is impossible to tell right away.

F) All of the above.

3) Which of these are sure to weaken the effect of a question?

A) feeling nervous and stumbling when posing the question.

B) already knowing the answer you want the answerers to discover.

C) presenting some possible answers, to get the ball rolling.

D) rephrasing it, to be sure it was understood.

E) allowing an awkward silence to lengthen after asking it.

F) None of the above.

4) Which of the following statements about “Why…?” questions is (or are) FALSE?

A) Research has found “Why” questions, in general, to be more powerful than “what,” “when” and “which” questions.

B) You can pose a “why” question without using “why”.

C) A “Why” question is the fastest way to the real root of any issue.

D) A “why” question may need to be repeated to dig down.

E) A “why” question can put answerers on the defensive.

F) It doesn’t matter who asks it – a solid “why” question always works.


7 Responses to “Agile Thursday Quiz: Powerful questions”

  1. Hi Yves

    Here are my answers:

    3b and c
    4d and f

    Looking forward to the results 🙂

  2. Lisa Crispin says:


    (I actually have no idea about any of the questions!)

  3. Irene says:

    1 C
    2 D (and for some E may apply, too)
    3 B C D
    3 A C D F

    Merry XMas Yves!

  4. Nice quiz, Yvez. I had to jog old learnings (or at least what I’d like to believe to be learnings).
    My take on powerful questions would be (sorry for not being able to keep it short):
    1. I think that B is close to the definition of a powerful question, that we want to send a person in a certain direction (although I’m not completely comfortable with the wording above) but we want the answerer to go into his/her context and experiences for the answer so I’d add the C as well.

    2. All and none (is that the same as F?). A-C could be indicators but I don’t think that any one of them is evidence.

    3. I don’t think that any alternative is sure to weaken the effect of the question but I’d try to avoid A-D.
    A. As a coach you want to come through as curious and bold rather than nervous.
    B. A coach being experienced in an area might have a good idea about what’s going on but ultimately the answerer needs to come up with his/her own answer and it’s important for the coach to be able to let go of any preconceived ideas when this happens. I would avoid expecting a given answer as much as possible.
    C. I would avoid this as much as possible as well. The answerer might need some time to search inside for answers and interrupting the thought process prematurely would defeat its’ purpose.
    D. The most powerful questions are usually simple and having to rephrase a question would indicate that it wasn’t simple enough.

    4. A, C, F and depending on what is meant by D; I don’t believe in repeating the same question over and over but doing something similar to 5 Whys might be necessary in order to focus in on a possible root cause.

    I can’t wait to read your view on this as well.

    Merry Christmas!