Powerful questions

Powerful questions workshop

Aim & Context

What is the aim of the exercise?

This exercise aims at raising awareness of the power that powerful questions can have. Sometimes the counterpart doesn’t need you to provide input or to relate to their story. Asking a powerful question can kick-start reflection in new, unexplored ways and thereby give space for new opportunities and ways of thinking. Participants practice vulnerability (by sharing a current challenge), active listening, open-mindedness, and asking powerful questions.

In what context is this exercise useful?

To support building better relationships. Whether you’re a manager leading a team, a parent raising a child, or a friend asked for advice, someone in the world might be looking to you to help guide them on a path. When this happens we jump into the role of a coach. Great coaches inquire: asking powerful questions to uncover what’s really important, then enable others to tap into their own knowledge and expertise. This exercise is especially useful after exploring active listening, as one can directly apply active listening skills to support you with the right questions.

Quick facts

Preparation time: 10 min

Online / Onsite: Both (check online option at the end of the document)

Workshop time: 1h 45 min

Ideal group size: 12/18 (groups of 6)

Contact of Workshop Developer: leonie.kummer@student.unisg.ch

Equipment and tools needed:

  • Flipchart, Board or slides/miro/chat to expose examples of powerful questions.

Detailed Description of Activity & Method

Please list step by step how the activity should be facilitated

Activity & Format



Facilitation Notes

Check-in and Session Introduction

10 min

  • Introduction of facilitators and participants if needed

  • Present today’s topic and agenda

  • Check-in on participants mood, expectations, or other. You can suggest a check-in question as “In one sentence, how are you arriving today?”

Start with answering the check-in question by yourself and then hand the word over to someone else, allowing everyone to share. Nice start for hearing all the voices in the room.

Topic introduction

10 min

- Start creating the space for the reflections and conversations of today: you can ask the audience if they are used to receiving or giving powerful questions.

  • Then highlight the importance of the concept of powerful questions: by asking powerful questions we support others to uncover what’s really important, enabling them to tap into their own knowledge and expertise. Making powerful questions indicates that we are deeply and actively listening, committed to the conversation as well as to the well-being of the person, and it helps create a powerful bond between people and to build trust.

  • Powerful questions are questions that do not aim at pointing the receiver of the question in a certain direction but are meant to be fairly open. They give the receiver of the question the possibility to explore new thoughts or possibilities and encourage new ways of thinking.

  • Powerful questions aim at opening up a possibly narrow mindset without being judgmental or indicative. Powerful questions are simple as they are usually a single question and not multiple questions combined with statements or stories.

  • Powerful questions are open-ended, and asked with genuine curiosity. The next time you feel compelled to quickly jump in with ideas and suggestions, first get truly curious. Ask questions without an attachment to the answer. This will help you uncover the real issue, and can also help someone develop her own insight.

  • Show some examples of powerful Questions. (Check the resources at the end of the document for more examples)

Build understanding.

What challenges are you facing?

What matters to you right now?

What opportunities are you seeing?

Set direction.

Ask these to shift focus from what’s wrong to what’s possible:

What is the best possible outcome?

What are you trying to achieve?

What do you want to happen next?

What does success look like?

How will you know if you’ve succeeded?

Shape options.

Ask these to generate ideas:

What have you tried?

What options do you have? How possible is each option?

What would you have to believe for this option to be right?

Define next actions.

Ask these to clarify what should happen next:

What data/information do you need to make a decision?

What action can you take now?

What are you taking away from this conversation, as a next step or new way of thinking?

What support do you need? Where will you get it?

Exercise Instructions

Part 1


  • In this exercise you will get 4 mins to share one challenge you are currently facing (more to that in a bit) with another participant and receive 1-3 powerful questions from them. On the other side you will actively listen to the challenge of other participants and pose powerful questions.

  • While you are listening to somebody’s challenge:

  • Apply what you have learned about active listening before.

  • Take some time to think before asking the powerful questions.

  • Pose your questions without making a statement, without summarizing, without giving advice, without relating the challenge to your own life and telling a story, without drawing a conclusion.

  • While you are sharing your challenge:

  • Try to be open to new directions of thought.

  • Receive the questions without answering them.

  • Keep your notebook with you to note down the questions you receive, you can reflect on them after the workshop.

If there was no previous workshop about active listening before, help the audience to remember some important points of active listening.



Part 2

Think of Challenge

5 min

  • You will now have a few minutes to think of the challenge you will share later. This can be anything that is on your mind at the moment, anything that you have trouble with. As always you are very welcome to be vulnerable and share a personal challenge regarding yourself, your relationships, fears, or anything else that you are currently dealing with.

  • Nevertheless, it is also important to choose what challenge you are comfortable with sharing and how vulnerable you want to be.



Part 3

Formation of Groups

5 min

  • We will form groups of 6. Each group forms one big triangle of three people on the outside and a smaller triangle with three people on the inside like so:

  • The people on the inner triangle start to share their challenge with their counterpart (4 min). Then the people on the outer triangle think of and pose powerful questions (3 min).

  • After 7 mins the people on the outer triangle rotate to the next person and the process is repeated. Therefore, every participant shares their challenge three times and receives powerful questions from three different people. (counting 21 minutes).

  • After the three cycles, the inner and outer triangles switch. In this way the people who shared first can experience offering powerful questions now.

  • Ask if people understood the instructions or if they have any questions.

Exercise Powerful Questions


- One cycle: 4 min sharing, 3 min thinking and posing powerful questions.

  • In total: 6 x cycle above.

For each of the two groups one facilitator keeps the time and reminds them when to stop sharing and when to rotate.

Individual Reflection

5 min

  • Gather participants back to the big group. Give them 5 min of individual reflection, to note down any immediate thoughts about the questions received, the questions you posed or simply to let it sink in the exercise.




- Facilitate the discussion into the feelings/ sharing/ impressions of the participants.

- You can ask them how their sharing time was; how this exercise made them feel, what stood out for them, what were the insights, what they have learned about themselves and about others.

- Don’t forget at the end to ask what were the key take-aways from the session.


10 min

- Provide logistical info about the next planned workshop (if any) or any necessary announcement.

- Check-out question: For example, get each person to say what they are leaving with from this session.

- Thanking people for joining and closing the session.

You can provide a document or in your preferred way the opportunity for them to provide feedback from this session.

Feedforward: Tips for future facilitators

Make sure to prepare yourself beforehand by for example meditating and being ready to give all your attention & empathy to the session. Focus on the present moment, speak slowly and clearly, breathe a lot and smile.

Also try to make it personal and share with your audience your experiences and how powerful questions helped you down the road!

Resources (Helpful websites or books for further reading)

Examples of powerful Questions: List1 and List2

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