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67 of 70 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
"Asking rather than telling, questions rather than answers, has become the key to leadership excellence and success in the twenty-first century." That, in a nutshell, is the premise of this book. Marquardt who has taught and written extensively on action learning shares the wisdom of leading with questions.

The book is divided into three sections: The Power of Questions; Asking Questions Effectively; and A Guide for Leaders of Using Questions. Throughout the book the author uses quotes from interviews of top business leaders about their use of questions.

The Power of Questions begins with examples of disasters such as the sinking of Titanic, the explosion of the Challenger spacecraft, and the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion. All disasters where the cause is attributed to a lack of questioning. Chapter 2 is a stirring recital of the benefits of questions. Questions open up perspectives, new learning, greater team work, create an empowering environment, help people gain a voice, increases listening, innovation, while reducing conflicts. It sounds like a miracle drug! Except that it's true. Questions are at the core of my business and I can attest to their transformational power!

The second part of the book is the strongest. It's the "how to" section on forming questions that will achieve all the benefits mentioned earlier. The author goes beyond simply giving lists of good questions (as some other books on questions do) and teaches you how to actually form a powerful question. Good questions he says are, "those that accomplish their purpose as well as build a positive relationship between the questioner and the questionee." He gives plenty of tips how to do this. He also addresses hinderances such as a judging or blame mentality.

The final section of the book puts questions into practice in various settings such as supervision, problem solving, and team building. Each chapter covers a different setting with 10-20 key questions and how to use them effectively.

Leading with questions is one of those skills where you think, "Yes, I want to be this way. Help me do it!" Leading with questions is a skill that requires breaking old habits and forming new more productive ones. Are you ready to increase your learning? Are you ready to tap into the potential of the people around you? Are you ready to make breakthroughs and create innovations? Then questions are for you!

What are you waiting for?
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35 of 38 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
In several of my most recent reviews, I have quoted an observation of Peter Drucker's from an article he wrote for the Harvard Business Review (in 1963) and it seems especially relevant to Michael Marquardt's most recently published book, Leading with Questions: "There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all." This is a common mistake, one that can be avoided if the right questions are always asked. Marquardt himself offers an excellent case in point. Before interviewing twenty-two specific leaders around the world, he formulated these five questions:

"When did you start using questions and why?"

"What are some of the ways you have used questions?"

"What questions have been most effective?"

"What has been the impact of leading through questions on (a) your organization and (b) you as a leader?"

"How has the use of questions changed you as a leader?"

The responses that Marquardt accumulated provide the substance of this book. After completing a rigorous analysis of them, he shares a number of important lessons that will help each reader to master what Marquardt correctly characterizes as "an underused management tool." I presume to add that this "tool" should be used by everyone at all levels and in all areas of operation within any organization, whatever its size or nature may be.

Marquardt carefully organizes his material within three Parts. First, he explains why questions can be so powerful for individuals and organizations. In Part Two, he offers practical guidance on selecting the right questions and then asking them effectively. In the final part, he presents a number of guidelines which suggest how leaders can use questions to achieve specific results for individuals, teams, and organizations. Resource consists of "Training Programs for Questioning Leaders"; in Resource B, Marquardt provides brief biographies of the aforementioned twenty-two leaders interviewed.

Of special interest to me is the material in Chapter 6 in which Marquardt explains how to create a "questioning culture." As clearly indicated in two of his previous books, Action Learning in Action and Optimizing the Power of Action Learning, Marquardt is both a visionary and a pragmatist: He is ever alert for opportunities to increase learning while achieving results, and, he fully understands the nature and extent of various barriers to doing that. Therefore, the information and (more importantly) the counsel he provides with regard to creating a questioning culture immediately focuses on asking the right questions to obtain the information needed, on collaborative interrogation, on capturing and then sharing what is learned, on nurturing innovation through effective use of questions, and on ensuring - meanwhile - that everyone involved has a sense of urgency. With regard to the last point, he observes that effective leaders can demonstrate a sense of purpose "by taking prompt action as issues emerge and by pushing for closure and results. [They] gather and share information while ideas are evolving." They also make certain that others do so.

Near the end of this chapter, Marquardt makes an especially important point at a time when so many of those who deliver unpleasant "messages" are either discouraged or, worse yet, punished: "All companies can strengthen their cultures by making them question-friendly. Leaders must model the way, promote values that support inquiry, ensure a safe environment that permits challenging the status quo, find opportunities to ask questions, reward questioners, and make training available when needed." Otherwise, an organization's culture will become and then remain hostage to what Jim O'Toole characterizes as "the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom."

The most effective leaders ask the right questions and help those for whom they are responsible to do so, also. Over time, both the questions and the answers will inevitably change but the process of interrogation which Marquardt so skillfully explains will continue to ensure that the new questions will also be the ones which must be asked, so that the answers to them will then guide and inform whatever initiatives may be necessary. With all due respect to Marquardt's earlier works, I think the material provided in Leading with Questions will have the greatest value and the widest impact.

Those who share my high regard for this brilliant book are urged to check out Marquardt's aforementioned works as well as David Maister's Practice What You Preach, Michael Ray's The Highest Goal, Jim O'Toole's Leading Change, Bill George's Authentic Leadership, Ronald Heitetz's Leadership on the Line, and Michael Hammer's The Agenda.
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32 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on May 27, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Leading With Questions is an "opener" sort of book. The value in a work of this nature is perhaps in getting a general discussion of question thinking vs. answer thinking off the ground. One might consider it as an introductory text for MBA, communications, or negotiation studies. Marquardt basically sets forth his thesis then ploddingly exapands on the obvious or near obvious while the reader searches for a nugget of insight here and there. Does that make it a superfluous book ? No, because we are culturally so deficient in this mode of thinking that the idea of shifting to question expertise versus the appearance of having all the answers does constitute an important perspective reversal. For some, this may come as a revelation. For others already versed in questioning skills, such as legal professionals or therapists, this will be a needless restatement of well understood techniques.
Marquardt often pads his work by using the same passages of quotation over again at multiple points in the discussion, and he offers no suprising real world scenes of questions in action.
The book generally sounds as if a pile of lecture notes and broadly valid observations taken at some distance from the furnace of real action were cobbled together into a kind of doughy handbook of not such bad ideas.
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32 of 40 people found the following review helpful
on February 13, 2007
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
The author contends that we must use questions as a way to learn, and we must not fear questions that come to us. If we really seek to make the best possible decisions given time constraints and lack of information, then we must use questions to discern the reality of a key issue. Furthermore, we must ask questions in a non-threatening manner. For those on the receiving end of a question, stop becoming defensive is another key message from the author. There is one aspect of the book that is not correct: don't ask "why" questions as the author promotes. Rather, one should ask for additional information: "help me understand what happened when..., please clarify what is meant by..., etc." When we ask "why" questions, we immediately prompt defensive behaviors. Questions are critical to understanding, and this author provides some valuable tips on asking questions, except for the use of "why" questions.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on May 7, 2007
Format: Hardcover
The concept is excellent. Necessary for anyone in management. The book itself moves slowly and can be repetetive though. Can skip chapters 1 & 2 if you are already sold on the effectiveness of the product and want to jump right into the meat of the concept.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
This is a revised and updated edition of a book first published by Jossey-Bass in 2005. During the nine years since then, obviously, a great deal has changed in what has become an extensively digitized, and increasingly more volatile global marketplace. Michael Marquardt's objective and focus remain the same, however: To provide whatever information, insights, and counsel his reader will need to become highly skilled in an immensely important but nonetheless under-appreciated dimension of effective leadership, asking the right questions. He interviewed a number of prominent leaders and shares what he learned from them. He also draws upon his wide and deep experience with C-level executives, notably as program director of the Executive Leadership Program at George Washington University. It is worth noting that he also serves as president of the World Institute for Active Learning.

As I began to read this second edition for the first time, I was again reminded of an incident that occurred years ago when one of Albert Einstein's faculty colleagues at Princeton noted that he always asked the same questions on his final examinations. "Quite right. Each year, the answers are different." As Marquardt explains so convincingly, those who master the skills of strategic inquiry -- to know which questions to ask as well as when and how to ask them -- will be able to obtain or determine the right answers to the most important questions, whatever they may be at any given time.

These are among the dozens of business subjects and issues of special interest and value to me, also listed to indicate the scope of Marquardt's coverage.

o Key Aspects of Leading with Questions (Pages 6-8)
o What Happens When Leaders Don't Ask Questions (14-18)
Comment: Results are usually even worse when leaders ask the wrong questions.
o Questions as the Ultimate Leadership Tool (22-27)
o Organizational Benefits of a Questioning Culture (34-48)
o Common: I learned decades ago that the only "dumb" question is the one not asked.
o Individual Benefits of a Questioning Culture (48-58)
o Questions That Empower or Disempowered, and, Types of Effective Questions (84-86 and 91-99)
o Roots of Great Questions (86-90)
o Finding Great Questions (101-102)
o Judger versus Learner: The Mindset for Asking Questions (103-108)
o How to Frame Questions (110-114)
o The Leader's Role in Shaping a Questioning Culture (130-143)
o Building Relations That Empower (152-156)
o Managing Key Employee Interactions (165-173)
o Leading Teams as a Coach-Questioner (178-186)
o Questions at Various Stages of Problem Solving (206-210)
Comment: Too often, the focus is on the symptom(s) of a problem rather than on the root cause(s). Toyota has popularized the "Five Why" approach to avoid making that mistake.
o Using Questions to Bring Fresh Perspective (214-218)
o Leading Organizational Change (232-235)

I agree with Marquardt that all managers who aspire to become effective leaders must develop a number of questioning skills, values and attributes that he thoroughly examines in this book. They include the ability to ask the right questions; knowing when and how to do that; possessing courage and authenticity to earn credibility and, of greater importance, respect and trust; confidence and trust in the process and (especially) in those involved; having a bias for bold but prudent action rather than risk aversion; outstanding listening skills; a passion for learning...and for sharing; and self-awareness that nourishes both confidence and humility.

The information, insights, and counsel provided in this revised and updated edition are even more valuable now. I congratulate Michael Marquardt on a brilliant achievement. Bravo!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 26, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
Nice little book on leadership. Worth the money and time to go through it and put some of the principles into practice.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 11, 2014
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
It poses a good way of approaching one's tasks as leaders. However, the self-congratulating, banal writing style make it excruciating to get to the good stuff. It would have worked much better as an essay, or 30-page brief. Read if you're adept at ignoring the chaff to get to the wheat.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on June 5, 2014
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Marquardt’s Leading with Questions is a rare “must have” to read AND use for anyone involved with getting better ideas, solutions and results through others.

I recommended it for leaders. I have used it successfully as a VP in a Fortune 250 and as a GM of a 35 person consulting firm. It also has application in non-profits, schools, service organizations and even government agencies. In short, for anywhere where people work, or should work together.

I also recommend it for those working on or those who aspire to be leaders. The techniques in this practical evidence-based book hold the opportunity for ANYONE working with or side-by-side others to help bring about better overall results. You need not be an official leader to use this book and help others to enrich team results.

Not in the above circumstances personally? Consider giving it as a gift to someone who is. I wish it was part of the curriculum for the college students of the world.

Dean S.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 1, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Dr. Marquardt has written a superb treatise on the power, art and science of asking questions. What comes out of "Leading with Questions" is the "leading" part where developing the right questions and a culture of questioning can fundamentally transform organizations because they are raising their collective intelligence and focus and energy for action. I particularly liked the Learner-Judger mindset and relationship chart - very easy to see how these prevailing mindsets can impact the bottom line so profoundly. Organizations that embrace these concepts will be much more open and receptive to new ideas, learning and thinking which in turn will provide commensurate competitive advantage.

DLM, Organizational Strategist
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