We don’t always set the proper intentions for conversations or communicate properly to others our purpose behind a particular conversation. This question is thus an opportunity to truly focus on the outcome and to get to the heart of the matter. In a sense this question is another way of saying “Why are we here?” If you can’t properly answer this question, then perhaps you might be better off doing something different.

I use this question in two ways. Firstly, by asking a client at the start of a conversation what would make it truly valuable for them. It tends to focus the conversation and kickstart the process of working towards the key issues on their mind that day.

I also use it as a means of setting my intention for a conversation. In essence:

  • What is it I would like to get out of this conversation?
  • Or perhaps, what would I like this conversation to accomplish?

The simple fact is that, at least for planned conversations (i.e., meetings, catch-ups…), there is a reason for having the conversation and there are likely some desired outcomes. The suggestion is to get them out into the air in some form so that your intention for the conversation is crystal clear in your mind. This will make for better outcomes.

Questions in the Image:

  • What would make this conversation valuable?
  • What is it I feel I need to know?
  • What questions need to be asked?
  • What needs to be said?

Want to Read More Around This Topic?

Fierce Conversations: Achieving Success at Work and in Life One Conversation at a Time by Susan Scott (link to Amazon.co.uk). This book focuses on the importance of having open, authentic, and effective conversations in both professional and personal settings. The author presents techniques and principles for engaging in meaningful conversations that can lead to improved relationships, increased understanding and better results.

Nurturing Curiosity – Daily Practice: This is part of the Nurturing Curiosity series of tools, insights and questions designed to help nurture curiosity as part of our daily practice. In point of fact, every interaction we have is an opportunity to question what we are observing and how we and others are seeing the world. Also remember that questions come in many forms throughout our day – a flowering apple tree might be an opportunity to ask “Where am I flowering and need care?” A photo of dead parents be inspiration for “How am I honouring their memory?” or indeed “What sort of ancestor will I be?” And some questions come unbidden with no obvious source of inspiration like this one just did – “How might I surprise and delight my clients?

About Tom O’Leary

My mission is to help others think differently – meaning more broadly and deeply – and thereby make better decisions. The key to thinking differently lies in our curiosity.

The more we question, the more possible answers we uncover, and the more we expand what we thought possible. Life has taught me that possibility lies not so much in seeking answers but in learning to ask better questions – the ones that help prioritise what is truly essential.

And yet, in a culture obsessed with efficiency and productivity, the paradox is that much energy and resources are wasted by a bias towards action over contemplation. If you are answering the wrong question, it doesn’t matter how ‘hard’ you work, you are still answering the wrong question.

That is why I am a big advocate of nurturing curiosity and innovative thinking at all ages, particularly amongst leaders because of the impact they have on us all. In my vision, leaders aren’t boxed in by traditional thinking or established playbooks. They are curious, open to fresh ideas and diverse perspectives, fostering a culture of exploration and learning.

What Thoughts Would You Like to Share?

I welcome your thoughts, feedback, or personal experiences related to these questions or any insights they may have sparked.