“The Chief Question Officer® Advantage” in Brain Capital

Marilee Adams

Jan 24, 2018

The most talented leaders and managers are successful not because they have quick answers but because they ask constructive questions of themselves and others, thereby creating inquiring cultures.

Effective questioning can be the difference that makes the difference for building a positive, innovative, and productive corporate culture. Getting the “right” answers means starting with the “right” questions. But how do we find the right questions?

Our cover story article in “Brain Capital” gives insight to how a Chief Question Officer can impact an organization.  http://bit.ly/2wZ8ChZ

Written by:

Marilee Adams

Jan 24, 2018


Our Prayers for World Peace

Marilee Adams

Dec 27, 2017

During the holiday season, our hearts are more open to each other and to our hopes and prayers for the world around us—and the world we bequeath to our children. Our consciousness is heightened to both the powerful resilience and fragility of that world.


With this in mind, I’d like to share two quotes that have jumped out to me recently. The first I saw when visiting a friend in the hospital:

“Always be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.”

The second is from a booklet entitled Prayers for World Peace prepared by the Venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso* of the Kadampa Buddhist tradition:

“We should know that learning to cherish others is the best method for establishing world peace in general and for our own peace of mind in particular.

“If everyone sincerely prays to be able to cherish other living beings, then gradually through the power of this prayer, everyone will actually cherish each other. The world will then be permanently at peace, and pure and everlasting happiness will pervade the entire world.”

What these quotes share is a consciousness of others and community and life bigger than ourselves. This is the sensibility behind some of my own writing in The Art of the Question that I shared in a recent blogpost. That section from the end of the book is entitled “Let Us Inquire Together” and that title was intentional prayerful. Here’s an excerpt: “As Learners we can join as participants in a living dialogue about a win-win future. Taking advantage of the question-driven nature of choice and responsibility, we can dedicate ourselves to speak, listen, and act together in enlivening the spirit and expression of genuine community.”

Here’s something that lifted my spirits and reminded me of how much is good and beautiful and inspiring in this world. I hope you’ll go to and watch videos of 10 people who are creating win-win futures and who won the title of “CNN Hero” in 2017.

As we step together into 2018, what life and light-filled questions might we ask ourselves and each other, day by day and moment by moment, to create such a world?


Let us inquire together ~

Written by:

Marilee Adams

Dec 27, 2017


The 5 Best Books for Business

Marilee Adams

Nov 28, 2017

Sometimes cool surprises land in my inbox!

Recently I was pleased to receive a blog from business mentor Laura Gordon in the UK entitled “The 5 Best Books for Business to turn yourself from a good leader into a great leader”. She wrote “. . . if there is one book which encapsulates the theories of modern leadership, it’s this one – put simply, Change Your Questions, Change Your Life by Marilee G Adams.”


In case you’re curious, the other four books are: Good to Great by Jim Collins, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni, Start with Why by Simon Sinek, and The Chimp Paradox by Steve Peters.

Here’s the link to the blog.   We’d love to hear your thoughts about this, including any examples you may have of leaders asking great, important, and impactful questions.

In the spirit of inquiry,


P.S. While we know your inbox may have been inundated the last few days with Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, we’d hate for you to miss a chance to save money on our Chief Question Officer Certificate program and other courses scheduled for March 2018.

Written by:

Marilee Adams

Nov 28, 2017


Skillful Question Asking: The Engine of Successful Coaching

Marilee Adams

Oct 22, 2017

Coaching is a powerful vehicle for optimizing performance, personal mastery, and results.  Because coaching has proven to be so effective, many major corporations invest in internal coaching and mentoring programs, usually for executives, leaders, and managers.

 The practices of independent coaches also are flourishing, empowering clients both professionally and personally. In both arenas, skillful question asking is the engine that drives coaching, from building relationships, to gathering information, setting goals, making interventions, and creating action plans.

This article covers both theoretical and practical ground in highlighting the importance of question asking for coaches, clients, and the coaching profession as a whole.  The focus is on both interpersonal and internal questions.  In addition, the uses of the Mindset Model of the Learner and the Judger, both in coaching sessions and as underpinning of question-centered psycho-education in coaching, are explored.  Finally, we discuss coaching and questioning practices in the context of learning organizations.


Coaching is a form of personalized, supported learning and development undertaken in the context of the accomplishment of goals, either professional or personal.  In the corporate world, the request for coaching usually originates from someone in the organization rather than the potential client, such as a manager or supervisor, often as the result of a 360˚ assessment. Most referrals to coaches in independent practice, on the other hand, are self-generated.  While the difference in the origin of the referral creates different expectations and challenges for both coach and client, the questioning processes described here can be successfully utilized by either corporate or life coaches.

What Makes Questions Important in Coaching?

Virtually every function that occurs in a coaching session is grounded in asking questions. Questions are fundamental for gathering information; building and maintaining relationships; learning, thinking clearly, creatively, and critically; making requests; and initiating action.  Asking questions is also fundamental for resolving conflicts and breakdowns, making decisions, solving problems, catalyzing “out-of-the-box” thinking, listening fully, and managing individual and organizational change.  Furthermore, success at tasks such as goal setting, staying on track, and strategic planning are all dependent on skillful question asking.  Each of these subjects, and perhaps all of them, may be addressed during the course of a coaching engagement.

Because questions are used so frequently and in so many different ways, many coaches have not fully recognized the existence of a systematic, comprehensive method to master their usage.  Moreover, even when there is an awareness of the importance of questions, it is often limited, incorrect, or simplistic.  For example, many coaches consider open-ended questions (“How are you feeling?” “What are your opinions about that memo?”) as more important than close-ended questions (“What time is it?” “Do you want to go to that meeting with me?”).  However, neither type of question is intrinsically “better” than the other; it depends on the context and any particular goals within it.

The questions are always contextual, depending on the phase of the coaching session and the purpose, or intended result, of the question.  Therefore, coaches could ask themselves, “What do I want my question to accomplish?”1  In addition, another category of questions, facilitative ones, combine features of both open and closed questions, and are among the most useful for successful coaching.2  In other words, coaches need to know what kinds of questions to ask when, as well as how to design and deliver questions.  For these reasons, coaches need to learn the principles as well as the practices of skillful question asking.

Understanding the principles of question asking begins with appreciating that questions are usually the most influential and creative aspect of speaking, thinking, and listening.  It is questions, far more than statements, that stimulate new possibilities and new openings for action, while ineffective or neglected questions often result in detours, missed goals, and costly mistakes.  Such results occur because questions program the form and direction of answers, even if the questions themselves are not discernible.

Not only does the quality of an answer depend largely on the quality of the question, it is not even possible to get the best answers without the best questions.  In addition, breakthroughs in thinking depend on new provocative questions. Put differently, paradigm shifts occur when a question is asked inside a current paradigm that can be answered only from outside of it.3  For example, prior to the invention of computers, the question, “Can you have that inventory report to me in one minute flat?” would have been unthinkable.

 The coach’s most challenging job is to catalyze clients’ ability to see new possibilities and take effective new actions.  Only new questions can call for new answers.  It is literally the case that, “A question not asked is a door not opened.”4  That door is first in a client’s mind – and the key to open that door is often the coach’s recognition of the importance of internal questions and how to utilize this understanding for the client’s benefit.

Interpersonal and Internal Questions

Most often in considering the domain of questioning, people understandably refer to interpersonal questions, the ones we ask each other, such as the questions a coach asks clients in order to guide a coaching session. In general, interpersonal questions are the only ones most people are aware of, since these are the most obvious ones we hear and use everyday.  As vital as these communicating questions are, however, they represent only one part of the domain of questioning.


The other part is made up of internal questions, the ones we ask ourselves.  Most people are only dimly aware of the existence of their internal questions, despite the fact that these questions virtually program our thoughts, feelings, actions, and outcomes.  Moreover, most of us are unaware of how pervasive or influential these internal questions actually are.

To take an everyday example, the behavior of getting dressed in the morning is guided by a series of internal questions that we may, or may not, be aware of asking.  Such questions might include: “Where am I going today?” “What’s the weather supposed to be?” Who’s going to be there?” What will be comfortable?” What’s appropriate?” and even, “What’s clean?”  The clothes we select represent behavioral answers to such questions, even if we remain unaware of the internal, decision-making questions that preceded and generated those behaviors.

A primary reason these internal questions are so important in coaching is that they are the basis of how human beings think and make decisions.  That is, internal questions are at the source of both effective and ineffective decision making.  If a decision as simple as what to wear is generated by so many internal questions, consider what kind of interrogative decision-making process must be involved in more complex decisions, such as choosing a career or whom to marry.

In this sense, for optimum impact, a coach would best be aware of the influence of clients’ internal queries.  The coach would use this awareness, for example, to help clients discover personal questions that might be impeding progress.  This would serve as the basis for designing new, productive questions that would facilitate clients’ ability to reach their goals.

In addition, these internal questions actually shape the course of external, interpersonal dialogues.  Both verbal and nonverbal behavior can be seen as answers to preceding internal questions. In other words, what we say to others is simply an external voicing of the answers to questions we have formed within ourselves.

Optimally, coaches would be aware of their own internal questions while working with clients.  Either in person or on the telephone, coaches guide their sessions primarily through a series of interpersonal questions.  In the background of these interventions are the coach’s own internal questions.  Such questions might include: “What will be most helpful now?” “What could be keeping my client from moving ahead?” “What else needs to happen here?”  In other words, coaches’ interventions represent answers to their own internal queries about the progress of the session, and what needs to be accomplished to bring it to a successful conclusion.

The Mindset Model of the Learner and Judger

Our mindsets frame the way we see the world, and simultaneously program what we believe to be our personal limitations as well as our possibilities.  Therefore, our mindsets also define the parameters of our actions and interactions, and affect, either explicitly or implicitly, outcomes in any area of focus.  A practical way to think about mindsets is to imagine that they are defined by particular kinds of internal questions, since the questions we ask ourselves, whether or not we’re aware of them, do indeed tell us what to pay attention to, what to expect, and how to behave.

Distinguishing the Learner and Judger mindsets provides a way to observe, categorize and understand thinking (or internal dialogue, including internal questions) as well as behavior.  The model also helps individuals make skillful cognitive, behavioral, and relational choices based on their observations.  The cognitive ability and proclivity for self-observation is called “formal operations” by developmental psychologists.  It is fundamental for exercising those most mature and fundamental requirements for effectiveness: awareness, choice, and responsibility.  The Mindset Model of the Learner and Judger, with its focus on internal questions, therefore has implications for the orientation, attitudes, and skill sets of clients as well as coaches.

The illustration of the Learner and Judger mindsets is summarized from a more extensive version that appeared in an earlier work.5  The two columns comprising the top two-thirds of the chart describe the qualities and characteristics of the two distinct mindsets. At the bottom of the chart are sample questions that characterize each mindset and that lend muscle to clients’ possibilities for change.  While the list of characteristics empowers clients’ ability to observe and understand themselves and others, the questions provide a practical tool for making changes effectively and swiftly.


Ultimately, the higher the quantity and quality of Learner questions asked, the more that coaching progress can be assured.  Questions typical of the Learner mindset are responsive to life’s circumstances and lead to thinking objectively and strategically, seeking and creating solutions, and relating in a win-win manner.  Typically, Learner questions are optimistic, and presuppose new possibilities, a hopeful future, and sufficient resources.

Conversely, questions typical of the Judger mindset are reactive, and lead to emotional thinking and behavior.  These kinds of questions, which are usually automatic, lead to negativity, limited possibilities, and focus more on problems than solutions.  Such questions result in win-lose relating, or operating in what may be termed an “attack-or-defend” paradigm.  The Judger, or judgmental, mindset, may be focused either internally or externally; that is, either on oneself or on others (including one’s manager, team, organization – or spouse).  Whichever the focus, a Judger orientation results in denying responsibility, searching for blame, and impeding progress.

The problems and frustrated goals that clients bring to the coaching relationship are generally circumscribed by a Judger orientation, even though these same individuals may operate from a Learner mindset in other areas of their professional or personal lives.  Since solutions and growth are most reliably available from the Learner orientation, training clients to develop the habit and skill of asking Learner questions helps them resolve the issues that brought them to coaching, as well as move toward the growth and development goals they have chosen.

In other words, the Mindset Model of Learner and Judger helps clients build and reinforce their ability to observe, understand, and accept themselves and others.  It is intended to train clients to become more flexible, more open to new possibilities, and less attached to their opinions and need to be right.  It also strengthens their ability to be conscious of choice and responsible for their thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and outcomes.

The power of this Mindset Model lies in stimulating higher-order cognitive capacities and using this awareness to help bring about a transformative shift from the Judger position (characterized by a “know-it-already” mindset) into new Learner possibilities of thinking, behaving, and relating.  While the distinction of these two mindsets is itself vital, key to the model’s practical power lies in training clients to ask Learner questions on a consistent basis.  Furthermore, for the model to be optimally useful, coaches are encouraged to use it as an explicit teaching tool with their clients.

Using a Question-Centered Psycho-Educational Model in Coaching

To empower clients through coaching means more than helping them overcome obstacles and accomplish goals.  It also requires training clients in developing perspectives and skills to sustain and accelerate their progress after the completion of the coaching contract.  The Mindset Model of the Learner and Judger was designed as such a psycho-educational tool.  Many coaching clients, including those in corporate settings, keep a copy of the Mindset Model on their desks or near their phones, and refer to it often during the day.  In particular, they refer to the Learner questions, understanding that asking those questions will keep them actively on the productive, solution-oriented side of the chart.

Coaching, Questions, and Learning Organizations

An active spirit of inquiry, fueled by curiosity and operationalized into a habit of asking questions, both internal and interpersonal, is the basis of all learning.  Learning takes place, for example, when we ask questions of others for eliciting information, gaining new perspectives, and clarifying information or ideas – as well as for challenging the status quo.  At the same time, learning (either through reading, observing, musing, or interacting) is generated by internal questions such as: “What does this mean?” “Do I agree or disagree?” “How does this fit, contradict, or extend what I already believe to be true?” What new thinking does this open up?” “How could this be helpful?”  Of course, learning, as the basis for new perspectives, skills, possibilities, and outcomes, lies at the heart of coaching.  Senge introduced the concept of the learning organization in 1990, in his now-classic book, The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization.6  However, as he himself says, there is no such “thing” as a learning organization.  Rather, this designation points to a preponderance of attitudes and skills that characterize an organization on every level, from its vision and mission statement to the daily operations of its leaders, managers, teams, and individuals.  In a 1995 article, Senge and coauthor Kofman wrote, “Learning organizations are a space for generative conversations and concerted action.  In them, language functions as a device for connection, invention, and coordination… What they know takes a second place to what they can learn, and simplistic answers are always less important than penetrating questions (italics added).”7

A National HRD Executive Survey, conducted in 1996 by the American Society of Training and Development, found that 90% of organizations reported either being, or aspiring to become, learning organizations.8  However, an organization cannot be worthy of this rubric if it does not actively encourage the learning of every individual, whatever his or her role.  Senge notes that, “Organizations learn only through individuals who learn.” 9  Coaching is the most explicit and personal vehicle for encouraging and training individuals in transforming themselves into intentional, innovative, and productive learners.  To this end, the Mindset Model of the Learner and Judger can serve as a powerful training tool for coaches to use with their clients in learning organizations.

Learning organizations, to fulfill their promise, would be comprised of Learner individuals and Learner teams, as conceptualized in this article.  That is, the behavior of the organization – and the individuals and teams that comprise it – would be generated by actively engaging in Learner questions, both internal and interpersonal.  Thus, a Learner orientation is simultaneously a place to “come from,” an active intention to aspire to, and a set of questioning practices to rely upon.  To underscore this point, we can consider that, “Without the intentional discipline of questioning the assumptions and beliefs of its culture and operations, an organization is reactive rather than proactive, surviving rather than thriving.”10

Dilworth, an organizational theorist, write, “In the broadest sense, all organizations learn.  The problem is that many organizations today are learning disabled… The key is to produce organizations that learn naturally and effectively.”11  Coaching can provide an essential key to such organizational and individual transformation.  The premise of this article is that coaching itself, whatever the setting, can be optimized if coaches seriously take on the task of utilizing the practical and transformative power of questions and the mindset from which those questions are asked.


This article highlighted the critical role of skillful question asking, both internal and interpersonal, for successful coaching.  It presented the Mindset Model of the Learner and Judger, which was designed both to assist coaches’ interventions during sessions, and as an explicit psycho-educational tool for clients to use on an active and consistent basis.  We examined the presumption that learning organizations might further fulfill their promise by encouraging individuals to operate with Learner intentions and questions.  In other words, we explored the assertion that questioning skills hold vital keys for the success of coaching clients, in organizational settings and in independent practices – and for the coaching profession as a whole.

* This article was adapted from one Marilee originally wrote for The Manchester Review in 1998.

Written by:

Marilee Adams

Oct 22, 2017


Let Us Inquire Together

Marilee Adams

Sep 27, 2017

I wrote “Let Us Inquire Together” over 20 years ago; it’s at the end of my first book, The Art of the Question. Looking at that writing today, I find it just as relevant as ever, maybe even more so.


I passionately believe that when we genuinely inquire together, we invoke the best in us—the best listening, the best empathy, the best respect, the best thinking, the best creativity and collaboration—and what can come out of that will be bigger and better than what any of us could have done alone. That’s the kind of inquiry that I call “Learner inquiry” and with it we create “Learner worlds” (as distinct from “Judger worlds” where the need for certainty and being right prevails and usually leads to criticism and conflict).

The differences between a Learner world and a Judger world are apparent when looking at the Choice Map.

Helping people create Learner worlds filled with possibility is at the heart of everything we do at Inquiry Institute. Whether I’m coaching, consulting, giving workshops, or speaking, I hope this intention shines through. I thank you for being in our lives and being part of our Learner Community.

 Let Us Inquire Together

“In a world increasingly overwhelmed with information, we can ask
Learner-centered, solution-seeking questions about what to do with
all we know. As Learners we can join in creating an age of inquiry,
rather than merely living in an age of information. Among our first
questions would be: What will it take to step together out of the
win-lose paradigm and into a win-win one? How can we accept
and manage our individual and collective Judger tendencies? How
can we be both loving and practical in creating a win-win world? and
How can we remember to keep asking questions such as these?

“Learner answers would be rooted in sensing the webs of connections
that have always existed among individuals, families, society, and our
physical world. I believe we share an intuitive knowing that any
viable—even desirable—future, must pay homage to this knowledge
and build upon it. As Learners we can join as participants in a living
dialogue about a win-win future. This inquiry positions us outside the
limitations of the Judger’s paradigm, and creates a spaciousness
where these question-centered methodologies can make the em-
powering difference. Taking advantage of the question-driven nature
of choice and responsibility, we can dedicate ourselves to speak,
listen, and act together in enlivening the spirit and expression of
genuine community.”

Marilee Goldberg Adams, Ph.D.
The Art of the Question


I welcome your sharing “Let Us Inquire Together” with others in your life, at home and at work. This writing could be the basis of conversations with teams or groups as well as with your friends and family.

We love to hear from you.  It was great seeing some of you on our inaugural Facebook Live and that we will do more and welcome your input on topics and questions for future broadcasts.

In case you missed this (or now have an opening in your schedule) next week you have the opportunity to work with me in a small group environment. We meet in Baltimore at the beautiful Mt. Washington Conference Center. I’d love to have you join me. If you have any questions, call us at 800-250-7823
In the spirit of inquiry!

Written by:

Marilee Adams

Sep 27, 2017


Change Your Mindset, Change Your Life

Marilee Adams

Aug 17, 2017

Most of us believe that change is hard, even when it’s something we want. Unfortunately, the daunting belief about the “inevitable” difficulty of change is why so many of us give up, sometimes even before we start. While change can be challenging, I believe the biggest obstacle is simply not knowing how to change— regardless of which of these two kinds of change you’re facing. The first kind is when you initiate change for something you want; perhaps to make changes in a habit (like exercising or eating) or in a relationship (either in your personal or professional life).

The second kind of change is when you’re forced into it by persons or circumstances outside yourself, for example, when a partner ends your relationship or the company you’re working for downsizes and you’re out of a job. In such cases, you didn’t choose what happened and are probably quite unhappy about it. Yet in both cases, changes are called for. The good news is that change is much easier when you realize that the most powerful place to begin is always the same—with yourself and the mindset you bring to the situation.


Change is all about mindsets

Every one of us has two basic mindsets, which I call Learner and Judger. While both mindsets are part of our nature and quite normal, they affect us in very different ways. In fact, one of these mindsets creates obstacles to change while the other creates new possibilities. Like the weather, our mindsets shift frequently, often moment by moment. While we can’t change the weather, you can change your mindset. Happily, there are mindset tools that greatly simplify this process. By understanding these two mindsets you gain the power to observe how they are shaping your mood, thinking and even your actions. This understanding also empowers you to ask yourself what I call “Switching questions” for transitioning from one mindset to the other. I know the Learner Mindset System works because thousands of people who’ve read my books or attended my workshops have shared their successes with me.

Let’s begin with the Learner mindset: this mindset is responsive, optimistic, open-minded, curious, and creative. When we’re “in Learner” we typically experience moods of hope and possibility. Our Learner way of being is thoughtful, connected and flexible, which helps us relate to ourselves and others in win-win ways.

What about Judger mindset? At its extreme, this mindset is reactive, pessimistic, close-minded, judgmental, and dead-set on being right. When we’re “in Judger” we typically experience moods of negativity, conflict and stress. The Judger way of being is critical and inflexible. When Judger is in charge, we end up relating to ourselves and others in win-lose ways.

You can easily guess which mindset helps with change and which one hurts, regardless of the kind of change you’re facing. Remember: we all have both mindsets and they can change from moment to moment. The big question to ask yourself is: “Am I in charge of my mindset or is my mindset in charge of me?”

Changing mindsets by changing questions

I’d like to introduce you to two coaching clients, Carla and Fred who sought coaching for quite different reasons. Carla had tried to initiate a change in her life and failed. Fred had been forced into making changes and was also failing. My work with both of them centered on teaching the impact of their mindsets so they could learn to navigate successful change.

Carla wanted to stop being a coach potato and had decided to start a new routine of walking every single day. But every time she missed a day, she beat herself up and finally got so discouraged that she stopped trying at all.  She decided to get some coaching and try again, hoping that would make a difference. We discovered that she was asking herself Judger questions like: “What’s wrong with me?” And “Why can’t I ever be successful?”

Fred came for coaching because he had been out of work for months and was desperate to find a job. Concerned friends told him he was his own worst enemy. He had loved his old job and was still angry at his old boss and righteously stuck in blaming the company for downsizing. The continuous loop of Judger questions he was asking himself included: “What’s wrong with those idiots?” and, “Why were they so unfair to me?”

Both Carla and Fred were mired down in what I call “the Judger pit,” honestly wanting to change yet completely unaware that the mindsets they were holding only made things worse. Carla blamed herself while Fred blamed his boss and his old company. Their own Judger questions kept them feeling trapped, hopeless, frustrated and stuck, looking backwards instead of forwards.

When you can open your mind, even for a second or two, you can also change your questions. And by changing your questions, you can literally change your life. Any time you feel yourself getting bogged down with Judger questions, try asking Learner questions to open you up to new possibilities and new solutions. You can easily identify which kind of question you’re asking by noticing how you feel, physically, emotionally and mentally. Are you feeling tense and uptight? That’s a good indication that you’re asking Judger questions. Are you feeling more relaxed, open and hopeful? Those are signals that you’re asking Learner questions.

Brain scientists have demonstrated many times over that our problem-solving and decision making abilities increase exponentially when we’re relaxed and feeling positive.

From time to time throughout the day, stop to notice the questions you’re asking yourself. Do they correspond with tension you’re experiencing somewhere in your body? Tightness in your neck, jaw, buttocks, chest, or anywhere else, can be your personal signal to change your questions. Take a look at the sidebar describing Judger and Learner questions to help you identify which mindset is in charge at that moment.

Learner and Judger Questions

Build your ability to observe your mindset at any moment by getting familiar with the two sets of questions below.  First read all the questions in the Judger column, then study all the questions in the Learner column. Notice how each set of questions affects you—your mood, your thoughts and any body sensations you might feel:

Switching questions are the “how to” of change

Once Carla and Fred learned to recognize the differences between Judger and Learner mindsets their lives began to change. Carla did stumble for a while whenever she got mad at herself for asking so many Judger questions. But I assured that that we’re all recovering Judgers! Judger mindset tends to be our default position; it’s basic to our survival. But when Carla and Fred could calmly observe their questions and mindsets, they found it easy to take advantage of the transformational magic of Switching questions to speed up their ability to lead “Learner lives.”

It’s amazing how quickly and easily these questions can make a difference in changing your mood, your thinking, and how you relate to others. Even though their situations were very different, Carla and Fred asked themselves many of the same Switching questions to shift their mindsets from Judger to Learner. Here are some favorite switching questions from workshop participants and readers of my books:

  • Am I in Judger right now?
  • Is this what I want to be feeling or doing?
  • What might happen if I stay like this?
  • What assumptions am I making?
  • What do I really want?
  • How else can I think about this?
  • Am I willing to switch?

Carla soon became adept at asking positive, future-oriented questions such as: “What support do I need to make these changes?” and, “Am I willing to forgive myself when I’m not perfect and slip back to Judger?”

Fred started asking himself questions such as: “What can I learn from that experience?” And, “What great new opportunities can I create for myself now?”

Both Carla and Fred, I’m happy to report, made the changes they’d been seeking and quickly moved forward.

The Five Questions

As a coaching graduation present, I gave both Carla and Fred one more mindset tool to assist them with future changes. Many people have memorized these five questions and say how helpful they are, regardless of the situation.

The Five Questions

Any time you want to make a change, big or little, use these five questions to guide you.

What do I want—both for myself and others?
Am I in Learner mindset or Judger mindset right now?
Am I listening with “Learner ears” or “Judger ears”?
What assumptions am I making?
Who do I choose to be in this moment?

Written by:

Marilee Adams

Aug 17, 2017


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