Book Review of “Leading with Questions” by Michael Marquardt

The subtitle is “How leaders find the right solutions by knowing what to ask.” (2005)

What would that success look like?

How can we create answers?

Open-ended questions like these are always useful when seeking solutions.  As learning organizations drive toward change, the quality of question-based approaches will define the success of that organization.

Some highlights (in my signed copy) include:

p. 80+ behaviors and mindsets of a judger vs a learner

p.134+ traditional leaders vs coaching leaders behavior and legacies

p. 176+ relevance of action learning

p. 181+ a groundrule for action learning teams

Michael Marquardt does a great job of incorporating examples from interviews, and provides ample lists of questions so that readers can apply this content to their worlds.

He provides a strategic framework, and two tactical models for those who want training.  The Global Institute for Action Learning and the Institute for Inquiring Leadership may be better for practitioners seeking tools.

Based on this book, I have developed a chart that moves from key/opening questions, to other questions, to notes, to action items.

How do you Lead with Questions in your world?



Recipes for Creating Epiphanies

The holidays are a perfect time for baking and cooking… but an epiphany?

The word “Epiphany” can be both a holiday and a feeling.

Perhaps you know that the Epiphany holiday is celebrated near January 6, as a traditional time for feasts, fruitcakes, Twelfth Night, and the manifestation of Jesus to the Maggi.  In Colorado, people celebrate by catapulting fruitcakes.  In France, people eat the “King Cake” until a child finds the porcelain bean and is declared “King for the Day.”  A baptism connected to sudden surprise.  I love how we mash traditions and beliefs into one holiday.

The feeling of Epiphany  is a sudden realization, that “Eureka!” moment, when we discover something important (such as gravity), or something spiritual (such as God.)  In fact, psychologists study the feeling of epiphany when studying innovation.  Philosophers study supernatural insight.  Mystics study the conditions that support epiphanies.


Why not celebrate both the holiday and the feeling?

What if we could, somehow, select the ingredients, create a recipe, then bake a fertile climate for epiphanies?  For instance, if we mashed together “preparation” and “inspiration”?  Or “market” and “opportunity”?  Or “buyer” and “seller”?  Or chocolate on top of  peanut butter cookies?

As a coach I help people design their future.  Kind of like helping them create the recipe, so that they can frost the cake.  The coaching process has 3 steps:  1) increasing awareness (of your strengths, a situation…),  2) taking action (with intentional constructive steps toward your personal and professional goals), and 3) driving accountability (determining what works, then doing more of that…”

I wonder if we can create Epiphanies, in a similar way?

Religious leaders and mystics talk about “Thin Places.”  These may be cathedrals (like Winchester) or ancient sites (like Stonehenge) that enable us to feel connected to the supernatural or spiritual.  If you have ever looked through stained glass, or sung in Handel’s Messiah, then you know about Thin Places.

For me, natural wild places are perfect conditions for Epiphanies.  Last week, for instance, I was running along a rocky ridge line in New Hampshire.  Imagine spruce and fir trees.  Ancient granite.  Snow and ice.  A good friend nearby.  Spectacular views of lakes and mountains.  Then imagine the sun setting into crimson lines of endless colors.  In that Thin Place I felt more spiritual than physical.

My epiphany was that, despite advancing age, I always feel stronger after a run.  Connected to something ancient.  Thankful for being alive.

So, here is a short Recipe for Creating Epiphanies:

1. Be physically active every day

2.  Serve others

3.  Do meaningful work

4.  Consider possibilities

5.  Maximize living in the Now

6.  Design the Future


And let me know how it goes…

Do you think it is possible to celebrate both the holiday and the feeling of epiphany?

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