Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Questions-The Magic in the Cards

Written by: on November 17, 2022

Eva Poole, in Leadersmithing Revealing the Trade Secrets of Leadership provides a “go to” manual that any leader would benefit from having handy in their library. Poole separates her book into Theory and Practice and uses the metaphor of a deck of cards which describes the various skill sets any leader must have.[1] As I read this book imperfectly, I began to take note of how often the author mentioned the use of questions, as an example, model, or direct intervention. Surprisingly, questions are woven into the various skills that the author mentions, giving rise to the necessity of question asking. My NPO centers around this topic and I will use this blog to catalog several opportunities when questions might be used. I will apply how these questions are used with an example from recent counseling sessions. Apart from creating a self-serving tool, I hope to share how relevant the skill of asking questions is by citing how the author instructs leaders in this timeless practice. Let’s see how the magic of asking questions plays out in the cards!

Critical Incident: Managing Ambiguity

How often do we, as leaders, fill a meeting or a conversation with information that does not provide the value we would like? Poole provides an example of a leader catching herself talking in a meeting about “opinions, solutions, and decisions” she “wasn’t ready for.” [2] She says this leader stated: “I wish I had just kept my mouth shut. Or at least responded with a brilliant question.” [3] When there is uncertainty, we need to be ok with not having the answers and refrain from sharing opinions. A good option would be to ask a question which might prompt insight or discussion from others. I like the approach Patrick Lencioni takes in committing to clarifying goals at the end of a meeting by “calling a question.” [4] This could be asking, “What have we decided in our meeting today?” Lencioni says this is the responsibility of the “leader of the team.” [5] Clarifying questions dispels any ambiguity the team might have in what decisions are needing to be made.

At the end of a session, I often direct the conversation to the client and ask them: “What would you like to put into action from this session today?” or “What homework would you like to give yourself today?” This allows the client to come up with measurable action steps which they choose for themselves. Asking these questions takes away the uncertainty of what the client will be working on.

Motivating and Influencing Others

Poole provides a list of 12 questions when “answered positively, correlated with higher levels of productivity, profit, retention and customer satisfaction.” These questions come from the “Gallup 12” which is a well-known study measuring the “strength of a workplace.” [6] Among some of these questions are: 1) Do you know what is expected of you at work? 2) At work, do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day? 3) In the last seven days, have you received recognition or praise for doing good work?

I am working with a client who struggles with having assertive communication skills with her manager. My client has shared how her manager takes advantage of her time by talking with her at the end of the workday, delaying her departure. I affirmed this client by highlighting the good work that she does and asked her questions about what would help her feel more comfortable in approaching her manager. I asked her many questions on how to talk with her manager. Examples of these are: How might you share what you are thinking with your manager? and What time would you want to talk with your manager? After employing the new skill of assertive communication, my client has grown to feel comfortable approaching her manager. Questions lead people to be fearless…so why are we often afraid of questions? We shouldn’t be!

6 of Hearts-Coaching

The author shares how she was trained in coaching “by the legendary Sir John Whitmore,” and described this experience: “his course took two days in which all we did was ask each other a lot of questions.” [7] Whitmore devised a GROW model for asking questions: G:Goal, R:Reality, O:Options, W:Will. Poole outlines 27 questions with this model. [8]. These questions assist in goal setting.

I recently gave some of these questions to a client to consider as he is in the process of deciding to get a divorce or stay with the wife he has been married to for many years. The questions from the GROW model will have significant ramifications for this client. These are the kind of questions that only he can answer: Which of the options will you choose? What obstacles do you expect to meet? And What is your level of commitment in achieving this goal? I am eager to hear how he has processed these questions.

7 of Hearts- Choreographed conversations

The author describes conversations as needing either a push or a pull in the “dance” of a conversation. The “pull” style which ‘facilitates interventions’ is catalytic and is described as “asking questions to speed the thinking process along.” [9] Patrick Lencioni, in Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team, similarly promotes the use of questions as an “effective way to diffuse tension in the room and move the team forward.” [10] Using questions facilitates a discussion in a positive direction.

I am working with a couple where the husband confessed to not being kind to his wife and the wife has shed tears while talking about the hurtful words he has spoken. As a counselor, I am in an objective role where I can diffuse emotions by asking questions and help the husband expand his comfort level in emotional expression. My goal is to empower the wife by tapping into rational processing while not feeling shame in shedding tears. I was able to ask: “What is your comfort level in seeing your wife cry?” and “How was processing this today when tears were accepted and normalized?

Leadersmithing highlights the need to employ the skill of asking questions and validates how useful questions can be. I am constantly challenged as a clinician in determining which questions will be most effective in working with my clients. There are many cards to draw upon. I am growing in discerning which card to play.


[1] Poole, Eve, Leadersmithing Revealing the Secrets of Leadership, 2017. p. 73

[2] Ibid. p.17

[3] Ibid. p.17

[4] Lencioni, Patrick, Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team, A Field Guide, p.54

[5] Ibid.p.54

[6] Poole, p.22

[7] Ibid. p.167

[8] Ibid. p.169

[9] Ibid p.167

[10] Lencioni, p.94

About the Author

Kristy Newport

11 responses to “Questions-The Magic in the Cards”

  1. mm David Beavis says:

    Hey Kristy,

    I am thrilled to see this book related to your NPO in a substantial way!

    In regards to the usage of questions to diffuse tense situations, do you have tried and true questions you normally use? Or a guide for what kind of questions to use in these situations? I learned recently that when in a confrontational situation, the best thing to do is ask questions. Your post reminded me of that.

    • Kristy Newport says:

      Thank you for reading my blog and asking me questions! 🙂
      honestly…I have not come up with “go to” lists of questions. I would need to sit down and think wisely over lists for questions addressing different issues.

      When things get heated, Crucial Conversations (great resource) encourages to make the environment safe. “People who are gifted in dialogue keep a constant vigil on safety.” p.55 The authors of this book state that “when it’s safe, you can say anything.” p.55 So, what will help the person who is anxious or angry feel safe? If you can answer that in a heated moment-you’ll be far out front in the conversation.
      One thing-I will never forget when a mom noted when I said to one of my children – “What do you need from me right now?” I am not sure what the mom observed about the transaction that was made with my daughter and I, but something about it was positive. My friend said, “I will remember that one,” after she heard me ask this question. I find that this question removes me from an adversarial role to a supportive role ie. “I am with you”, “I am for you.”

      Thanks David!
      Have a wonderful Thanksgiving vacation next week

      • Tonette Kellett says:


        David’s question about a set of questions that you go to was fabulous. I enjoyed reading your response as well. My favorite was the question you asked your daughter, “What do you need from me right now.” I love it!

    • Alana Hayes says:


      I found it fascinating how much this book applied to Kristy’s NPO, career, and daily life!

  2. mm Becca Hald says:

    Kristy, I love your focus on questions. When we ask others questions, we give them an opportunity to do the learning rather than just giving them an answer. Jesus modeled asking questions. I did a quick google search and found this, “The four Gospels record 339 questions that Jesus asked.” (1) Thank you for sharing with us how you are using questions in your practice to help others get to the answers they need. I know that God is going to work powerfully through you in your NPO.

    1. https://www.biblicalleadership.com/blogs/why-did-jesus-ask-so-many-questions/

  3. Alana Hayes says:

    Wow Kristy!

    As I was reading this book, I immediately thought of you and your field! I thought…. “My friend Kristy is an expert at all of this!” That must mean you are a leader! (I could have already told you that though!) I also thought your project and about how we could correlate the questions that Jesus asked with this book. So I wonder…. When did he pause?

    • Kristy Newport says:

      You are generous in your comments.

      Help me with your question. You asked: When did Jesus pause? Are there examples that you would have from Scripture? I know that Jesus withdrew to talk with the Father. Are you thinking of other examples?
      I am curious what you were thinking when you asked this question. Please let me know your thoughts if you get the opp!

  4. mm Chad McSwain says:

    Wonderful post! I’m so excited that this book connected to your NPO.

    Do you have go-to questions if you get stuck with a client and not sure which “card” to play?
    How have you learned which questions are most effective?
    Have you ever had a client that would not respond to your questions?

    Okay, I’ll stop there!

  5. Kristy Newport says:

    Answering questions-
    ?’s when stuck with client-
    I might ask questions which further assess what is going on with my client. Sometimes exploring helps to get unstuck. If my client cant come up with ideas for themselves I might ask- ” Who are some people in your life who you have seen be successful in this area?”
    ?’s which are most effective-
    Effective strategies are finding the exception. “Tell me about a time that something came together for you. What was that like?”
    ?’s that appeal to a clients interests are effective. I like using word pictures in line with their personal interests. “What club would a golfer use in this situation,,,get the job done? Engaging the clients creative side of their brain works well.

    Sometimes a client does not answer questions. I try and engage them in a creative way. I ask them if I can make a family map on the white board. This usually engages them and they participate.

  6. Audrey Robinson says:

    From the very beginning, you set the tone with the statement of the necessity of asking questions.

    In the Critical Incident Managing Ambiguity section, you stated we should be okay with uncertainty. And that it is okay to not have the answers and that we should refrain from responding by sharing an opinion. I would welcome the opportunity to explore with you how to help someone become comfortable with uncertainty and has yet to learn how to ask clarifying questions. It can be a very intimidating space, particularly in the workplace.

    • Kristy Newport says:

      Thank you for reading my post!
      I am glad you highlighted this area. Dealing with ambiguity can be difficult. I am curious what you have going on at work where you have run into this with direct reports? Would there be specific scenarios that you could email me? I would love to join you in thinking about this!
      I have been thinking of resources I could send you. I will let you know if I come up with some. My husband and I do management training for businesses but this information is embedded into our power point.
      I recently coached someone who was struggling with how to approach their supervisor. Much of the work I did was to boost her confidence in approaching her supervisor and helping her approach her supervisor thoughtfully. I need to follow up with this person and find out if this helped dispel the ambiguity in pursuing a conversation with her manager.

      Great blog post and discussion today. I liked how it was easy to read.

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