Change Your Questions, Change Your Life: 12 Powerful Tools for Leadership, Coaching, and Life- Marilee G. Adams

Change Your Questions, Change Your Life: 12 Powerful Tools for Leadership, Coaching, and Life is a new and expanded edition of the book which become international bestseller and introduced Adams’ idea of Question Thinking and “using questions for great results everywhere it matters”.

This book is different from other personal growth and handbook-like practical books as the ideas are introduced in a story. The book features many useful tools that could be easily utilised in coaching but also the same strategies can be used successfully in business and everyday life.

“Change Your Questions, Change Your Life” is a special kind of personal development fable that tells a story of Ben, businessmen in executive position, who is introduced to Question Thinking. When we meet him at the beginning of the book, he is in trouble at work and is about to hand in his resignation, when his boss introduces him to Joseph, the inquiring coach. Firstly, he opposes coach’s ideas as he used to be very proud of his abilities of the “answer man”, but then slowly get understanding of the fact that questions drive every area of life and the type of questions we ask ourselves and others can shape our future. As you read the book you witness Ben’s personal journey to first understand and then utilize it in professional and personal life. You see how introducing better questions moves him to higher leadership position at work and also helps him and his wife to sort out troubles in their marriage.


“Question everything” Albert Einstein

The author’s main message is that everything in our life starts from a question. World of questions is a world of endless possibility. Only by asking right questions we can get the answers we are searching for. In business, personal life or during coaching, the questions (and right type of them) can open a door to a new information, insight or different point of view. Sometimes a good question can make you aware of old and outdated paradigm. Marilee Adams explores this idea during Ben’s story.

“Question Thinking”, introduced in the book, is an easy to use system for transforming thinking and getting results. Sometimes the only thing we need is a new perspective which gives us alternatives. This will encourage us to take powerful, practical steps to transformation, enabling positive changes at work or in personal life. In Adams’ words “Question Thinking (QT), the heart of the book, takes on an age-old issue-our ability to be in charge of our own thinking, moment by moment by moment. QT provides skills for observing and assessing our present thinking- especially the questions we’re asking ourselves- and then guides us in designing new questions for getting better results. QT helps us think mindfully rather than reactively, leading to more astute choices for productive outcomes, even under pressure. Building reliable capacities for constructive thoughts is vital for intentional and sustainable change, in both our professional and personal lives. Without this skill, our goals for change may remain only wistful slogan that never come to fruition”.

The author reckons that our future starts from the questions we ask ourselves and others, and that depends on our thinking and mindset. I really agree with it too. Is it not the essence of coaching process as well?! If we are in a right mindset, are open-minded and trying to learn, then we generate answers which are positive and full of possibilities. This type of questions is called by Adams the “Learner” questions. If we instead start from the negative place, disempowering feelings and blame- it will result in failure, stress and limitations. These types of questions are called “Judger” questions.

Judger and Learner are two options we chose when we start asking questions. Although Judger moments are hard to avoid, we should put our attention to always start from right mindset so we encourage Learner within us.

“We cannot solve our problem with the same thinking we used when we created them.” Albert Einstein

During his sessions with Joseph, Ben is introduced to the idea of Learner and Judger and to the Choice Map. I found the Choice Map to be an amazing tool, probably the best from this book. The map helps us to better notice the two basic paths we take every day- Learner Mindset and Judger Mindset paths. The map gives you better chance to observe yourself and gives you ability to make changes.

“At nearly every moment of our lives, we’re faced with choosing between taking the Learner or Judger path. (…) Those choices are taking us along the Learner Path or the Judger Path. These are our mindsets. As you can see, by choosing Learner mindset we can discover new possibilities. By jumping into Judger mindset, we can eventually end up stuck in the mud. Most of the time, we’re shifting back and forth between Learner and Judger mindsets, barely aware we have any control or choice. Choice begins when we are mindful enough to observe our own thoughts and feelings and the language we use to express them. This is the key to success- building the muscles of the observer self. Self-coaching is impossible without strong observer”.

The very important skill you can learn from the book are Switching Questions. These are design to switch you from Judger into Learner. If you catch yourself being in Judger you can ask yourself few checking questions. Examples of these questions can be:

-Am I in Judger?

-Is it what I want to feel or do?

-Where would I rather be?

-How else I can think about it?

They will make you aware of your position and you can then consciously switch to Learner mindset. Such a useful tip! I really like it!

Although the idea to deliver general message and the tools through Ben’s story is an interesting idea and can be better digested by readers as it consists of many examples, I found it a little bit “cheesy” sometimes. I can understand this approach can work well with many people as opposed to typical business skills/ coaching skills handbook which delivers information in a dry manner. The story gives examples of how the tools can be utilized and what possible results can be achieved by using them. The book is easy to read and step by step builds your knowledge of the power of questions. The tools are woven into Ben’s story but also summarised in a workbook at the end of the book. It worked well with me.

The book seems to be directed to business word people, executives and leaders but can easily be adopted in personal life as well as coaching setting. I can imagine this book be very useful lecture for new as well as seasoned coaches. It delivers a main message in a simple way giving lots of examples from everyday life. It can reinforce established practices for experienced coaches and get new coaches some food for thoughts. Highly recommended!

I can definitely say that this book enriched me. I knew that questions are very important and I understand their power. But I also thought, a little bit like Ben, that answers are very important too. We all know “brainstorming” process and how it can be used to problem solving but I never thought about it in terms of questions instead. Adams calls it “Q-storming”. Instead of generating lots of ideas/statements, you work on coming up with a big number of questions. The idea is very similar, but using statements fixes you in certain thinking/mindset. Using questions instead, makes the process more open for new, insightful thinking and is opening a possibility for new discoveries.

“Great results begin with great questions. (…) How can you get the best answers without asking the best questions first?”  Marilee G Adams


You can buy the book on Amazon