Asking the right question

Article by: Coach Kriengsak Niratpattanasai
Photo: Kadir Akman

“Khun Kriengsak, why are so many changes?”  Niran whines about change initiatives in his company.

“Khun Niran, how often do you ask this question?”

“Coach, I asked myself whenever a new change project launched in my organization.”

“What’s a benefit from this question?”

Niran’s quiet for a moment.  He shook his head.  “I don’t know.”

“Okay, Khun Niran.  The quality of your question determines the quality of your life.”

“What do you man coach?”

“Let say if you change your question to:  How can I adapt to this changing world?  What will be different action from your original question?”

“Then, I have to take initiative to do something.”

“What’s the different between these 2 questions?”

“The first question was just a complain while the second one lead to positive action.  Ah!”  He exclaims.

“Coach, how can I change my question?”

“That’s a good question.  There is a book QBQ – the question behind the question by John G. Miller.  This is a Thai version.”  I hand him the book.

“The premise of this book is to train your mind to ask the right question that enable you to lead yourself to take accountability and positive action.  Why don’t you read it and we will discuss about it next session.”

2 weeks later, we meet again.

“Coach, this’s a fantastic book.”

“Tell me some of the questions you changed.”

“Alright, before I read it I had wrong questions such as:

Why don’t other work harder?

Why is this happening to me?

Why do they make it so difficult for me to do my job?

When will they take care of a problem?

When will the customer call me back?

When will we get the information we need to make a decision?

Here are the new sets of question that I changed:

How can I do my job better today?

What can I do to improve the situation?

How can I support others?

What solution can I provide?

How can I more creatively reach the customer?

What can I do to find the information to make a decision?”

“Khun Niran, that’s great.  There is lots of wisdom from such a small book.”

“That’s right coach.  I need to reread it couple times.  I want to buy it for all my management team.”


“So, they will change their actions like me.”

“What question should you need to ask before doing that?”

“Um.  Let me think.”

After few seconds he says.  “How can I ensure they will apply what they read?”

“That’s good.  How?”

“I probably need to share with them by telling my experience first.”

“That’s good.  What’s else?”

“I have to explain to them what benefits they will gain if they apply concept from the book.”

“What are the benefits?”

“From my own experience, I feel that I have a freedom to choose my thinking.  I cannot change situation but I can change my attitude.  The book gives me perspective to choose a positive attitude whatever circumstance is.

Secondly, I feel that I am being empowered.  Because the questions from this book suggest that I have to take accountability instead of waiting for someone to give me a power.”

“That’s good.  It seems to me that your benefits can sell to people who are independence, being responsible and willing to take initiatives.  How do your people?  Do they all open minded?”

“There are 3 groups of my 10 direct reports.  1 will jump to apply the concept.  7 of them might try but need more encouragement, and 2 of them might silently resist.”

“What would be your practical plan?”

“Perhaps, I will do step by step:

I will share my story and distribute all the books to everyone.

I will assign the first person to read and apply it as pilot project for the first week.

Then, I will ask the pilot person to share his learning point to the team.

Then, I will ask the team to discuss learning points – the benefits.  Let them sell to themselves.

Then, I am sure some of them will have some doubt and reservation.  I will ask what concerns they have.  Usually, those concerns are their excuses not to do or sometime potential problems.

Then, we will discuss how to prevent those potential problems and resolve anticipated concerns.

This way they will engage and have a sense of belonging to for this mini project.”

“That’s good.”

“Coach, it consumes time and effort.  I rather go with my first initiative – distribute to everyone and let them learn and change.”

“How often your ‘fast way’ work?”

“Not many.  Usually, it fast to fail.  I got it coach.”