When your listening is authentic and active, it can have a powerful impact on performance.

Can you recall a time in your life when you were asked for your opinion on a matter, and it was quite apparent that the person asking really didn’t have any interest in what you had to say? It was a clear check-the-box exercise for them. How did that make you feel?

Of course, we never want to be that person on the other side. But we’ve all been there. Sometimes when we are overwhelmed by all the new people, projects, goals, and expectations, we go through the motions of listening without really focusing on active listening and authentic interactions.

Being aware of this tendency, you can remind yourself to listen for the most important ideas, information, strengths, and positive observations to celebrate in addition to identifying the challenges, the goals, and the processes that need to change.

When your listening is authentic and active, it can have a powerful impact on performance. One of our favorite research studies looked at high-, medium-, and low-performing teams, and studied their conversations. They found that members of high-performing teams ask as many questions as they advocate for their own positions.

In other words, by listening to each other, asking questions, showing curiosity, and really considering the ideas of others, we actually create the conditions for high performance.

Most importantly, because every human being wants to be seen, heard, and appreciated, we want to listen to the whole person and the whole story.

This takes real time, energy, and openness. But the return on this investment is enormous.

If asking questions really can unlock high performance for your team … what questions should you ask? Below we offer some questions that, while useful anytime, are especially helpful when you’re new in an organization.

10 Questions You can ask your team:

  • How does X work?
  • Why is it done that way?
  • What’s working well?
  • What would it look like for this to work perfectly, beyond your wildest expectations?
  • Where is the most potential for growth? For innovation?
  • What are we really good at, better than anyone else?
  • When things are working perfectly around here, what is happening in terms of how people work together?
  • What are your top priorities?
  • Where should we start?
  • What do you want? Why?

What you’ll notice is the appreciative nature of this question list, versus a more traditional problem-based list of questions.

When we take the problem-based approach, we often find the unintended consequence of inviting a laundry list of complaints and problems that your team may now feel inclined to dump on your lap and expect you to own and fix.

But when you take an appreciative approach, it leads to more inclusive engagement and generative thinking by offering an invitation to be part of the vision for the future. People name strengths and feel more empowered to be part of solutions and innovation.

Besides, most of the time we’re clear on the problems… what we really need are ideas for moving past them. These questions will help you find them.


Whenever you need assistance on your journey, here are 4 ways we can help:

To learn more and get started, schedule your complimentary strategy assessment call here.

Patrick Farran, PhD, MBA

Patrick Farran, PhD, MBA

Co-Founder and CEO

Patrick’s 25+ years as a senior organizational leader and consultant, with specialties in change management, systems/process improvement, culture transformation, and employee engagement, spans multiple industries (professional services, government, healthcare, education, non-profits, manufacturing, financial services, insurance, high-tech, and energy), and organizations from start-ups and non-profits, to mergers and acquisitions, to established global organizations and Fortune 100’s. Prior to founding Ad Lucem Group, Patrick served as Director of Consulting for the SAS Institute serving state and local government agencies, educational institutions, and health care organizations. In addition to his work with Ad Lucem Group, Patrick currently serves as Associate Director for Graduate Business Career Development within the University of Notre Dame where he teaches and mentors students in the consulting/strategy and entrepreneurship concentrations within the full-time MBA program and serves as a mentor to start-ups through Notre Dame’s IDEA Center as well as the 1871 and Workbox start-up communities in Chicago. Patrick holds a BS in Chemistry/Mathematics Education from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, an MBA from DePaul University, and a Ph.D. in Values-Driven Leadership, Corporate Social Responsibility, and Sustainability from Benedictine University’s Center for Values-Driven Leadership. Patrick researches and writes on topics of organizational change, culture transformation, work meaningfulness, and engagement. In his free time, he performs in community theatre and trains for his next triathlon.

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