The power of positive future-focused questions

You’ve probably heard that leaders need to ask more questions. It takes courage and practice to find the kind of questions that will help others to help themselves, your organization and move everyone forward.

Wait! If you want forward movement, why aren’t you asking questions that are focused on a positive future to move to? If you think about the last time that someone asked you something that made you stop, think and feel good about your answer, it may well have been a forward-focused question.

The reasons that questions about the future are compelling are:

  • We often don’t think about the future using questions; we are more often thinking about the past. The past has already happened, but the future is full of possibility. Questions can surface possibility.
  • Thinking about a better future is exciting and most people want to be a part of that.
  • We like to solve problems. The future is all about solving problems before they happen.
  • We love to be creative. Sparks fly in our brain when we can dream about something new and different.
  • Creativity is in our blood. Everyone can be creative if the right question is asked, and future-focused questions stoke our best creative selves.
  • We are tired of thinking and rehashing the past, especially in a critical way (although it is sometimes needed). We want new positive things to think about.

Future-focused questions help us to think in new ways, and we need that. Otherwise we’d keep doing the same old things in the same old ways. So put on your question and thinking hats and get busy challenging yourself to ask positive, future-focused questions. Here are a few to get you started:

Future-focused questions to ask your employees:

  • What will you be doing X years from now?
  • Who will you be when you do XXX?
  • What will you be thinking about and feeling when you reach that milestone?

Future-focused questions to ask about your organization:

  • What results can we expect to see in the future if we do XXX?
  • How will we interact differently when we trust each other?
  • What can we accomplish when all of us buy into this idea?

Future-focused questions to ask yourself:

  • What do I want to accomplish in the next year?
  • How will I be different when I reach that goal?
  • What will it take for me to show up authentically tomorrow (next week, month, year)?

All of these questions can be altered to suit the situation and the person. And they all have an energy that feels like moving forward, don’t you agree? When will you start asking positive future-focused questions?

I am a former executive in a Fortune 100 company. I have owned and operated an executive coaching firm since 2003 called Aspire Collaborative Services LLC. We partner with great leaders to help them become even greater at developing, improving, and sustaining relationships with the people who are essential to their success. This blog is for leaders and those who help them to be more intentional about relationships at work. My top personal values include respect for others, kindness, compassion, collaboration and gratitude. I work very hard at practicing my values daily and when I don’t succeed, I practice some more. I am married with two wonderful daughters and two spoiled pugs.

2 comments on “The power of positive future-focused questions

  1. I’m glad that I read this article today. Young people usually feel stuck and intimidated by thinking of what happened in the past, but thinking about the brighter future will train our brain better. Awesome article Mary! Thank you for sharing.

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