The Power of a Well-Placed Question - by Lisa BournelisA prudent question is one-half of wisdom. – Francis Bacon

Have you ever been floored by a well-placed question?

As I write this blog on ‘Blue Monday’ the alleged ‘saddest day of the year’ – that third week in January when resolutions fail and bills roll in – I’ve been reflecting on how the power of questions can elevate your ability to move forward to achieving your intentions and goals. As your sticky challenge evolves, moves and changes, so are you constantly moving, evolving and changing with it. Exploring your challenge through the power of questions opens up new possibilities to view, as Einstein put it, “The old problem from a new angle.”

Whether it’s moving closer to an elusive goal or becoming ‘unstuck’ in a current state; whether it’s discovering your core purpose, or refining your values; whether it’s communicating fairly in difficult conversations or holding yourself accountable; how can a simple question be the difference that makes all the difference?

A well-placed question can diminish the gap between where you are in the present, and where you want to be in the future [1]. It can create space for shared exploration and curiosity.

When was the last time you were asked a question that gave you pause to reflect? How was this experience different to one where you were offered advice?

As a human systems practitioner, we recognize that answers or advice will have a limited shelf-life in complex situations – while good questions can last a lifetime.

Asking questions, even when attending to those unsolvable / complex problems, does a number of things:

It allows you to view even the most complex problem as a series of patterns that can be shifted. This opens up new possibilities with each new question asked. Questions also open up new perspectives and ideas that were never considered.

This fall I was offered the opportunity to be trained in the application of powerful coaching questions [2] to support my daily interactions in my consulting world. What is a coaching approach? It’s a shift from telling people what to do, (consulting), to holding space for them to come to their own solutions by asking open ended questions, which in turn, opens up possibilities for learning. I was astounded at how bringing conscious coaching questions into daily conversations opened up greater possibilities for others to meaningfully contribute. I saw how this built confidence in individuals as they identified their own internal capacity to problem solve and lead in complexity.

Curious or coaching questions are a powerful way of relating to others that opens space for thoughtful consideration instead of disempowering the person seeking new solutions. Curious questions can break down barriers and misunderstanding. They foster trust and embed accountability, while allowing for creativity to rise out of chaos to build patterns for possibilities.

By asking questions, you show up differently for others. You model acceptance for multiple views and ideas (even when agreement is not achieved). You are present and more actively listening to the whole person, versus listening to respond to, or control the conversation. Inquiry keeps us present for others and ourselves. It can open up hope, and fan embers of “what might be” instead of “what is naught”.

No single answer will solve a complex problem – but a well-placed question or two will open up a myriad of potential solutions.

A well-placed question empowers you to dig into the resources you already possess to construct your own roadmap for moving forward. It leads you to your next wise action, even in the most chaotic situations.[3]

What question will ask yourself today to spark one shift?

If you need some inspiration, I leave you with a few….


  • What makes me hopeful?
  • What kindles a fire in me?
  • What truly matters to me?
  • What kind of experiences leave me in awe?
  • What is it time for?

So What?

  • What difficulties in my life helped me to know my resilience?
  • What does my curiosity want me to follow?
  • What will doing nothing cost me?
  • What opportunity or possibility is available to try right now?
  • What surprised me in my answers?

Now What?

  • What has inspired me to take one action today?
  • What will support my next step?
  • How will I celebrate myself along the way?
  • How will I enroll others in my vision?
  • How will I recognize when my sticky pattern has shifted?
  • What have I learned from this? What will I try now / differently / again?

If you’d like to explore some personal coaching using the power of inquiry to support you in moving towards your goals or helping you become unstuck, email me at or DM me on Instagram @makeoneshift.


1. Coaching out of the Box
2. The methodology I had the privilege to be trained in was Coaching Out of the Box. For more information, visit: