What if we have been asking useful questions all along when our client tell us we should be more valuable?I feel compelled to share a story that relates to this. My style in most engagements is to ask a series of questions that helps to really get at the heart of what is needed, what should be done, etc. Often, a client, peer, employee, etc. will start with a vague notion and by asking good questions you can bring them towards clarity. Often along the way, you ask them things that cause them to go in a very different direction.
However, using that style one time really hurt. I was in a meeting with a major Type A manager. We had spent about an hour together with me helping the conversation through lots of questions to take a vague concept to something quite different and much more concrete than the vague concept expressed at the beginning of the meeting. I was feeling great. What I got was:
Okay, Tony, you've been asking me questions for an hour and I've been giving you answers. What value am I getting?I was stunned and I could hardly formulate a response. Tom's point brought that situation back.
And, I think Tom's point about what questions to ask at what point is on the money. In fact, this month's Big Question made me realize that I was meaning to ask pragmatic questions, which was not clear in the original question.