Addressing Authentic Questions

An authentic question is a question we really care about and to which we have no answer. Recently 20 wonderful people spent two days with me. On the first day, I asked them to list their authentic questions. They produced the following list.

  • I am exhausted. How do I get back my creative self?
  • When I get back, how do I maintain my best self?
  • What do I do next week to make a difference?
  • How do I become positive and not turn others off?
  • How do I engage my people by utilizing their strengths?
  • What do I do if I have a truly evil boss?
  • If I forgive someone, do I have to trust them?

The next morning I was up a 4:00 AM staring at the questions. It took me two hours to write the following assignment.
Assignment: Step into your best self. Then answer the following questions, not with an answer but with a simple question that will transform the conventional perspective of the person asking the question.
I asked everyone to write a transformational question for each of the above authentic questions. We then debriefed. In regards to the first question about burnout, for example, a woman asked, “What gives you joy?” I asked her to elaborate. She explained that instead of focusing on why we are burning out, we could focus on what gives us joy and consciously build more joy into our work.
Others came up with similar insightful questions. The person who originated the authentic question made notes on the conversation. When it was over, he had ten practical actions he could take. He said he was going to take them all. The process repeated for each of the remaining questions. As I drove home, I was consumed with the magical learning that had just taken place. In a simple exercise, some major theories of change came together and learning skyrocketed.

  • Why did it take two hours to create the two-sentence assignment?
  • Why did the process have so much impact?
  • What is the everyday application of this case?
  • How could we use this passage to create a more positive organization?

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