Nine Ways Questions Can Transform Professional and Personal Relationships - Slide 2

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Questions turn one-dimensional, arms-length business relationships into personal relationships that endure for years.

When a relationship is all business and there is no real personal connection, it lacks heart and soul. And therefore you are a commodity — a kind of fungible expert-for-hire. A client — or your boss — can trade you out for a new model with no remorse or emotion. But when you’ve connected personally, the situation is transformed because clients stick with people they like. Bosses hold on to team members they feel passionately about. Your expertise and competence get you in the door, but it’s the personal connection that then builds deep loyalty.

A senior partner in a top consulting firm once had to meet with the CEO of a major client. Other consultants were nipping at their heels to get more business from this company. This powerful, confident CEO, who was in his 60s and near retirement, had seen hundreds of consulting reports. At the end of a routine briefing, the senior partner paused and asked the CEO, “Before we break up, can I ask you a question?” The CEO nodded. The partner said, “You’ve had an extraordinary career. You have accomplished so much, starting at the very first rung of the ladder, on the manufacturing floor. As you look ahead — is there something else you’d like to accomplish? Is there a dream you’ve yet to fulfill?” The CEO was nearly stunned. He thought for a moment and replied, “No one has ever asked me that question. No one.” And then he began talking about a deeply held dream he had for his retirement. That question was the turning point in building a long-term, deeply personal relationship with an influential business leader.

In his post, “Asking the Right Questions Can Have a Dramatic Impact on Your Life,” Don Tennant wrote about the importance of knowing what questions to ask in a given situation. The topic warrants further discussion, to elaborate on exactly why mastering the art of asking questions is so essential.

In that post Don shared some tips from Andrew Sobel, a management consultant, executive coach and co-author of “Power Questions: Build Relationships, Win New Business, and Influence Others,” about asking questions during a job interview. To underscore the importance of asking questions in a more general context, here are nine ways Sobel says questions can transform professional and personal relationships.

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