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Secrets of Success

Three Questions



I’m in the business of helping people work together more effectively so I spend a lot of time with organizational leaders.

At its core leading people is an exercise in effective communication.

There are, I would suggest, three questions that will allow you to successfully interact with those around you.

The questions are:

“What’s working?”

“What can we do better?”

“What can we do differently?”

Look carefully and you’ll notice something about the questions:

  1. There are framed in positive language.
  2. They are information driven.


Let’s unpack each one.


“What’s working?”

People have an interesting habit of often communicating what they want by communicating what they don’t want or don’t like.

They are, in essence telling each other what’s “not working”.

The problem is telling people what we don’t like is a negative way of communicating can contain criticisms and tends to make people feel unsafe and defensive.

Starting the conversation with “What’s working?” has a different effect.

People are proud of their successes and proud when their efforts have paid off.

Beginning a conversation focusing on what is going well and what people are doing that is working causes people to open up.

And when they begin to open up you begin to get valuable information.


What can we do better?

Can’t we just talk about what’s wrong and offer some constructive criticism?

Sure you can.

If you want people to become defensive and reactive, be my guest.

Here’s the problem with that approach.

Criticism of any kind comes from a place of judgment.

Having said that, while no one needs to be criticized, sometimes people do need to be corrected and shown a better way.

Asking “What can we do better is another way of saying, “Rather than looking at what’s wrong lets look at what we can improve by focusing on correcting the situation.”

Correcting is a lot different from and far more effective than criticism.

Correcting someone happens when we are in a responsive rather than reactive state.

We focus on behavior not the person.

We communicate what we want instead of what we don’t like.

We offer help.

The value of this approach is that the conversation moves in a positive direction and in doing so problems begin to be solved.


What can we do differently?

This question comes from a place of curiosity and is an invitation to brainstorm and try new ideas.

It is future oriented and invites people to examine new ways of thinking.

The operative word is, “we.”

The message is, “We are all in this together.” “Two heads are better than one.”

This question allows you to use the many brains to improve.

The assumption is we hired people for their brains so it might make sense to use those brains.


Three questions.

They’re easy to remember.

They create the opportunity for a positive exchange of valuable information.

They allow people to share without judgment.

Try them.

They could transform the way people in your organization communicate.




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CTS Consulting, Inc

3126 Berkshire Road

Baltimore, Maryland 21214

phone 410-444-5857

cell 443-286-2488