Asking Better Questions: What's your North Star?


Today’s guest is Robin Peter Zander, an author, strategist, and performance coach. (scroll down for Robin’s full bio and links)

The big insight for me in this episode is to ask myself a simple set of questions, often: why am I opening my mouth? What’s my goal?

Wanting the best for the other person you’re talking to is a fine place to start. But there’s a level of humility we could all benefit from: Starting from a firm belief that each person has their own wisdom, rather than believing I know better what they need than they do.

We talk about four levels of questions:

1. Fact based questions

2. Judging questions

3. Questions that elicit Stories and Narratives, ie, questions that pull at a thread

4. Loving Questions, which are present and non-judgmental

I shared a 2 X 2 framework I’m working on in my book, How Conversations Work, that contrasts these two question stances: Asking vs. Telling. We’ve all heard (and asked) these type of non-questions.

The North Star Conversation Framework

The North Star Conversation Framework

The other axis is being problem-focused or solution-focused in your questions. “Have you tried this?” is a really different question from “What have you tried?”

We reference two magnificent quotes about questions that I want to offer here in full:

In the word question, there is a beautiful word - quest. I love that word. We are all partners in a quest. The essential questions have no answers. You are my question, and I am yours - and then there is dialogue. The moment we have answers, there is no dialogue. Questions unite people.

Elie Wiesel

Krista Tippett, the host of NPR’s On Being, suggests that “questions elicit answers in their likeness. It's hard to transcend a simplistic question. It's hard to resist a generous one. ”

If we’re willing to take risks in communication others can respond in kind. The shift has to start somewhere, with someone.

More about Robin

Robin Peter Zander is an author, strategist, and performance coach. With a diverse background ranging from management consulting to the circus, he has spent his life working with individuals and organizations to maximize potential. He is the founder of Zander Media, a creative agency which works with start-ups to grow brand and culture, and Responsive Conference, which convenes annually to explore the future of work. Learn more at


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