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  • Writer's pictureFarah Rani

Interview with Dr Michael J. Marquardt, founder of WIAL, World Institute of Action Learning

Asking questions is a valuable skill that is often overlooked in organisational settings. While many leaders focus on providing answers and solutions, asking questions can be a powerful tool to encourage critical thinking, creativity, and collaboration among team members.

Recently, Marie had the pleasure of speaking with Michael J. Marquardt, an accomplished American academic and writer of Leading with Questions. With his vast experience spanning several decades, Michael has held numerous senior management, training, and marketing roles in various organisations. He is also the co-founder and former President of the World Institute of Action Learning (WIAL), and his publications have sold over a million copies in nearly a dozen languages.

Watch a snippet of the interview with Michael Marquardt regarding the 7 Benefits of Asking Questions:

During their conversation, Michael shared seven compelling benefits of asking questions that can help leaders transform their teams and organisations.

One such benefit is that questioning can be a tool to effectively solve problems. Complex problems can be challenging to solve, but asking the right questions can help us see the big picture and understand the problem in a more systemic and sustainable way.

Secondly, Michael noted that many leaders use questions to build teams. Asking questions can build teams by fostering better communication, collaboration, and trust among team members. He also noted that teams that work together, listen to each other, challenge each other, and enjoy being with each other keep getting better as teams.

Asking questions can change the culture of the organisation and the people within the group, creating an environment that is more open, curious, and patient. Many leaders want to change the culture so that people enjoy it more, get more done, and want to come to work. Michael remarked that asking questions changes the culture.

Fourthly, asking questions can be an effective way to build deeper relationships and friendships. Even when dealing with strangers or colleagues you have had disagreements with, the moment you ask them a question saying, "Joe, what's your opinion about this topic?" or "Have you had any experience?" it demonstrates to that other person that you care and have respect for them. Michael expressed how all deep relationships and friendships occur with the question. He stated how if you want to create a friend, ask them a curious question.

Asking questions can help develop leadership skills. Michael pointed out that every leadership skill can be demonstrated through the act of questioning, whether it's being patient, inspiring, or direct. Leaders know that the best way to develop leaders is to have them ask questions, particularly around a problem that they don't have the answer to.

Another benefit from asking questions is that it can turn us into learners. Deep learning occurs when we question our experiences and reflect on them, enabling us to do things better. Questioning helps us reflect on our experiences and learn from them.

Lastly, Michael expounded on how asking great questions can energise us. When you get asked a great question, it changes you and causes you to do something you did not think you had the ability to do. There's nothing that can enable someone to jump buildings and leap across cliffs except for a great question.

In the end, Michael's message was clear: we can all become better questioners and in turn, better leaders and human beings. I found his words to be eye-opening. It's amazing to think that the simple act of asking questions can have such a powerful impact on our lives and the world around us.

Imagine a workplace where everyone is empowered to ask questions and encouraged to think critically and creatively. It's a place where innovation and growth can flourish, and where individuals can develop the skills they need to become better leaders and make a positive impact on society.

The 3rd Edition of Michael’s book Leading with Questions contains more in depth guidance, support, ideas and examples and is available on Amazon.

Written by Farah Rani


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