21 Great questions for facilitators (2)

December 1, 2019 Rosemary

21 Great questions for facilitators (2)

A great facilitator asks great questions at the right time and in the right way. The shorter the question, the most useful it is to the person being asked, as you get yourself out of the way and give the person answering the space to answer.  This is real facilitation. 

As an action learning facilitator, I learnt that ‘suquestions’, as they were fondly called by the folks at the School for Social Entrepreneurs where I worked, really blocked the thinking of the person in the hot seat.

‘Suquestions’ are suggestions framed as questions. Like ‘why wouldn’t you just go to your manager and ask for help’ rather than ‘what can you do about that?’.

In Action Learning the person in the hot seat raises a dilemma, clarified, so it’s a very clear question, then settles back as those in the room ask questions. The goal is to help the person in the hot seat find their own answers, or in my language, listen to their Mentor Within. The thinking is that we know the answers, but there are things that get in the way of us seeing what the answers are. When asked the right questions, we can find great answers. 


Action learning is a formal process that can be used in many settings. Facilitation can be just like action learning if the facilitator uses those same skills which entail asking questions that allow the person to access their knowledge, skills and experience. 


It can happen, though, that you are standing in front of your audience and you can’t think of a single question to ask. That’s when a cheat sheet comes in handy. That’s why I am providing 21 key questions you can use in most settings. You may even choose to print it in big font to have available when needed. 

You can also cut the cheat sheet up and have individual questions that people can ask one another. And you don’t have to be the one asking the questions – you can pair people up and ask them to raise a dilemma they are facing, and each has a set of questions that the other person can pull out at random and ask. It is remarkable how good questions can be used in almost any order, and they can create some ah-hah moments if one really sits back and listens.


My favourite exercise is to get people to ask just one meaty question, and their partner is only allowed to say ‘tell me more’ or ‘ok’ while the other person is talking. It’s a luxury to be able to talk and talk with someone listening intently but not adding their opinion. 


  1. What would the best outcome be?
  2. What’s the worst that can happen? 
  3. Tell me what is standing in your way?
  4. Explain a time has this worked for you in the past? 
  5. When were you at your best? 
  6. What have you seen other people do when they are faced with this kind of problem?
  7. What is the best advice you have received about this in the past? 
  8. Can you give three possible outcomes?
  9. If you were to choose an outcome, what would it be?
  10. How will you tell this story three years from now? 
  11. Can you change the story you think you will tell three years from now, so it reflects a powerful outcome?
  12. How can you step into your power? 
  13. What do you need to start, stop or continue doing? 
  14. What have you learnt so far? 
  15. Tell me what you still need to cover?
  16. What will be deeply satisfying for you? 
  17. Can you say that again, slowly, really listening to what you just said? 
  18. How can you create a win for you, a win for those around you and the world?
  19. What is the way that you, those around you and the world will benefit? 
  20. How will you, those around you and the world contribute? 
  21. How do you want to remember this day?

As a facilitator, you will have your own style of asking questions. Just be sure they are never asked to make you look clever or to prove a point making you right and someone else wrong.

Consider your motivation for asking the question and encourage everyone else to do the same. Great questions can create great outcomes. 

Do you have any brilliant questions that always work? Please share them in the comments. 

First published on Smallville.com.au
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