Ask Questions Daily


By Marshall Goldsmith

What if you could implement a process that costs almost nothing, takes about three minutes a day, and if you stick with it, will help you achieve your full potential? Would you try it out? Let me tell you more! My colleague, Andrew Thorn, taught me this fascinating daily questions process and tried it out on me. Since then, I have been doing it with my good friend, Jim Moore, former CLO of Sun Microsystems, Nortel, and BellSouth. Both Jim and I have been amazed at how well this works! Every day Jim asks me the same 24 questions. Every day I ask Jim the same 17 questions. A key to the success of the process is that each person writes his or her own questions. Each one of our questions can be answered by yes, no, or a number. This keeps the process moving quickly. We send each other weekly results from an Excel spreadsheet.

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One rule — no negative feedback! No matter what the other person has done, we say nothing that may produce guilt. On the other hand, we make positive comments that reinforce success. Recently, I asked Jim how much he weighed. Since we began, he had lost 20 pounds. I said, “Great job! That’s a new record!” Jim and I live miles apart, and we both travel extensively. Yet we still connect by phone on about 80 percent of the days. When we miss a day or two, we catch up later.

For example, I will share some of the questions that I have written for Jim to ask me. Please remember my questions reflect my values and may not work for you.

Jim’s first question for me is, “How happy were you today?” I answer on a 1 to10 scale with 10 being the highest score. Being a Buddhist, one of my life philosophies is very simple — be happy now. I have a 

great life, a wonderful wife and kids, good health, don’t have to work, love my job, and don’ t have a boss. If I wasn’t happy today, someone made a big mistake — that would be me! In spite of all my blessings, I can still sometimes get caught up in day-to- day stress, forget how lucky I am, and act like an idiot. It helps to get a daily reminder of the importance of happiness and gratitude.

Jim then asks, “How many minutes did you spend writing?” This is harder for me. I am an extrovert who loves teaching, coaching, and being with people.

It is hard for me to sit by myself and write. Yet, writing is an important part of my life. Through my writing, I have reached millions of people who have never heard me speak.

Some of my questions are about health, such as, “How many sit-ups did you do?” (This works! Today I did 400 sit-ups at once. Not bad for a 57-yearold guy!) Disciplined follow-up is the key to the success of my teaching and coaching. One question is, “With how many clients are you current on your follow-up?” My relationship questions include, “Did you say or do something nice for your wife? Your son? Your daughter?” I am not a perfect husband or dad, but this process is helping me get better! Why does this process work? For one, it forces Jim and me to confront how we actually live our values every day. We either believe that something matters or we don’t. If we believe it, we can put it on the list and do it. If we don’t want to do it, we can face reality and quit kidding ourselves.

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If a friend of yours or your peer coach were to call you every day and ask you questions about your life, what questions would you want this person to ask you? Write the questions that you would want a friend to ask you every day. The process of writing questions will help you better understand your own values and how you live or don’t live them daily. If you have courage, recruit a friend and start asking daily questions to each other. You may be as amazed at the results as I have been. LE

ACTION: Answer the questions that mean the most.

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