Change Your Questions, Change Your Life: 10 Powerful Tools For Life And Work, by Marilee Adams
This book is one of many in business that revolves around presenting a fake but “realistic” scenario in order to present the main character going through a change of heart and attitude and behavior that is meant to mirror that of the reader in adopting a new approach to managing that encourages changing one’s questioning approach in order to lead to better success as well as more unity among teams. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as business books have long adopted the fable as the form in which they wish to spread insight, seeing it as a better means to change behavior than merely intellectually discussing an approach and what it involves and providing a simulacrum of a practical example for the reader to follow. If there is anything that I find dodgy in this particular book as opposed to most members of its kind, it is that the author clearly does not see herself in the role of Ben, the protagonist who struggles to change his approach after he finds himself over his head in new management position, but rather in the role of Alexa, the person in charge of the company who has previously already gone through the learning experience. While it is not entirely atypical for the writer of such a book as this to cast themselves as the knowledgeable teacher of a new way to a protagonist who is designed to be in place of the reader, in this case, Alexa does not herself teach the way of questioning properly to the protagonist but rather encourages him to learn from Joseph, an outside consultant.
This book is almost 200 pages in length but the main narrative of the book is only about 150 pages or so in length. The book ends with a foreword and introduction that point out how common it is for people to see themselves in the role of Ben, which is a subtle way that the author and the author of the Foreword have of pointing to the success of the author’s model in pointing out the general behavior of managers in our business world. After that comes a look at a moment of truth when a manager finds himself at the end of his tether in struggles over managing a group (1). This leads him to attempt to resign his position, at which the person in charge of the company gives him a challenge to see an outside consultant named Joseph (2). This leads to a look at a map that contrasts a learning attitude from a judging attitude and points to different levels of success (3), at which point there is an insight that all of us are recovering judgers (4), which leads to an application of these principles to the home life of Ben and his wife Grace (5). What follows are discussions of the importance of switching questions that allow someone to escape being judgmental (6), as well as a need to see with new eyes and hear with new ears (7). A contrast of judger and learner teams follows (8) as well as what happens when magic works (9) and a discussion and application of q-storming (10). Finally, this leads Ben to success in both his personal life (11) as well as in his professional life (12), where the book then ends with ten powerful tools of using the question thinking approach of the book in work and life, as well as notes, acknowledgments, information about the author, as well as information about the Inquiry Institute.
It is really the structure of this book and its plot that does not quite succeed to the level of other books in this genre of business fables, although it does share in general many of the tendencies of the fable to draw out the beginning stages of resistance to change as well as the widespread nature of the applicability of these principles to one’s personal life as well as one’s professional life, as the author portrays Ben as dealing with his wife Grace and struggles about their own lives and struggles at communication with each other. In many ways, the personal and professional aspects of this book lead to a double crisis where the breakthrough in the business life is preceded by a partial breakthrough in the protagonist’s personal life and then prompts a crisis in the personal life thanks to the lack of openness and honesty by the protagonist about his struggles at work and how this affects his relationship with his wife, including the long work hours that lead her to suspect that her hapless husband is having an affair on her. In common to most books of this type, though, the book has a rushed and abbreviated ending that piles success after success once the critical change of approach has been made, showing that the author is trying to stack the deck in favor of pointing out the rewards of change rather than dealing with the lasting struggles to maintain a changed approach.