Alexis Monville (en)

Ask Better Questions

What is it?

Ask Better Questions is a practice to push you to ask questions instead of stating your opinion. The practice helps you focus your questions on a specific area that your interlocutor cares about.

Why use it?

We tend to want to solve problems, even when we know that it is much better to help people to find their own solutions. Alexis has received several questions about the need to listen, and the need to ask better questions. Looking for a simple way to explain how it works, he used the GROW model developed by Graham Alexander.


GROW stands for Goal setting, Reality, Options, Way forward. Let’s examine a few examples of questions you could ask for each step in a future conversation.

Be careful not to make the questions sound like a judgment call. The goal is to explore what are the real goals of a person for the current conversation, or for a more long term time frame, and then ask question to help them find their own solution to get there. The questions could also be used in a group setting situation. In both cases, you need to first get permission from the person or the group to provide your help.

Goal setting, what the person wants to achieve:

  • What does success look like?
  • What would need to happen for you to walk away feeling that this time was well spent?
  • What would be a milestone on the way?
  • If you had a magic wand, what would you change?
  • How much personal control or influence do you have over your goal?
  • How will you measure it? (the goal is not the measure, just to foster the conversation and to check that you have the same understanding of the goal.)

Reality, assess the reality (and the awareness of the person that reality is a very subjective thing):

  • What is happening now?
  • You will need to use descriptor questions to help the person to think more precisely about the situation: Tell me more about, help me understand, I am curious about, could you describe further…
  • How do you know that this is really happening?
  • What other factors are relevant?
  • How do the other stakeholders perceived the situation?
  • What are the results of your previous actions?

Options and Obstacles, explore the different options possible to get the desired results, and examine the obstacles that prevent to get the results:

  • What could you do to change the situation?
  • What have you done or see others do in similar situations?
  • What are the options for action?
  • What are the benefits and costs of your different options?
  • What are the external and internal factors that could prevent you in taking actions?
  • What will you do to eliminate these external and internal factors?

Way forward, is when we convert options into actions:

  • What option will you choose?
  • What will you do and when?
  • What support do you need and from whom?
  • How will you get that support?

After each conversation, take some time to reflect on what happened during the experiment:

  • How did you feel during the experiment?
  • What challenges did you face?
  • What did you have to do or believe to be successful?
  • What positives can you take away from the experiment?
  • How can you apply what you learned in your life or the workplace?

Note that the questions above are all open questions; what, where, when, who, and how. This gives the person you are questioning freedom to respond. You might also notice that there are no “why” questions; “why” questions can cause the person you are questioning to defend their actions. Stick to open questions for maximum impact.

Further Information