Power Question : Chapter 1 – 4

How to ask the right question? To answer this, we need to know so much more than just what the “right” question is. A friend of mine who’s working as a project manager shared his career advice with me that in order to be a successful business analyst, you need to see the big picture and know what is the right question to ask.

This is probably why the book Power questions caught my attention. We always hear that “people are our business”. If that is true then Business Analysis is indeed People Analysis. You can get a Business degree or an Engineering degree, or any degree you might like, but there is no education that actually teaches you to do People Analysis or to use People skills in general. It is such a tragedy of education, because People Are Our Business, unless people skill is an innate ability, otherwise I do believe a proper form of education including self-study on people/social skills should be received by every individual who desires to live a healthy, happy and successful life.

Maybe that is why social media like Facebook and Tweeter get so popular. For the increasingly large population who are now isolated from society, community, or even family, the only place to receive human attention and strike a conversation – meaningful or not – is probably on Facebook by clicking the “LIke”, “Post”, or “Poke” button. Because to do that, people skill is not required.

The tragedy of our education becomes a fortune to those who “sell” “People Skills Apps” on the Internet though automated system, although the quality of their “product” is lame.

Friends, it’s time to make People our top priority and teach ourselves the lesson that we missed in years of our ‘miseducation’. Let’s get started with the book Power Questions and then go from there.

This book gives practical suggestions on how to build a strong business and personal relationship by starting a meaningful conversation in various situations.

I summarized the first 4 chapters in the following –

1) Asking clarifying questions before giving an answer to a non-specific question such as “Tell me about yourself”. Examples: “What do you like to know about me?” “What part of my background interests you?” “What aspect of the situation you’d like me to focus on?” “What if I started by describing a couple of examples of recent work I’ve done for clients like you?” Followup questions might be “Is there anything else you’d like me to talk about?”

2) Show that you are a good listener and that you care about the other person by asking “What do you think?” Or “How do you feel about that?” “Would you be willing to share your views on this?” “I value your opinion, can I get your reaction on that?” Followup question to ask “Are there any other perspectives I ought to be aware of?”

3) Assess the likelihood of success in sales according to the following four indicators –

  • No need. No sale
  • No ownership/responsibility. No sale
  • No interest/dissatisfaction. No sale
  • No trust. No sale

To evaluate the need, ask “Is there a problem?” “Is this one of your highest priorities?” “What do you think this opportunity is worth?”

To evaluate the ownership, ask “Are you responsible for fixing this?”, “Who owns this problem?” “Who needs to be involved in a solution to this issue?” “Who would authorize an expenditure to address this?”

To evaluate the interest/dissatisfaction, ask “Is this a minor issue or something you are truly fed up with?” “What would you say is missing?” “Why do you think that now is the time to put extra resources to address this?” “How effective have your own efforts been to address this?”

Last but not least, to evaluate the trust, ask “How do you feel about our capabilities in this area?” “What concerns do you have about us or our approach?”

Ok, I’ll followup with more power questions soon!

Ph.D. in Economics with interests in Life Science, Behavioral Science, Health Economics Evaluation and Health Technology Assessment. Executive MBA student at The University of Chicago Booth School of Business in Hong Kong, graduating in 2020.

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