Books: Good Questions

Journalist Frank Sesno breaks down the art of strategic asking.

Ask More: The Power of Questions

By Frank Sesno; Amacom; 272 pages; $25

Post-election America has prompted a reflective period for many association boards and staff, all asking how, why, and what-now questions.

Emmy-winning journalist and former CNN anchor Frank Sesno couldn’t have timed any better the release of his research- and interview-based exploration of the art of strategic questioning, Ask More: The Power of Questions to Open Doors, Uncover Solutions, and Spark Change.

Now more than ever, when “a fast answer can obscure deeper inquiry,” Sesno fears social media and the 24/7 news cycle have led to “fractured civic discourse,” and “sincere questions too often play second fiddle to certainty, ideology, and outrage.” His response has been to identify and categorize 11 successful styles of questions—and how and when to ask them.

Of particular relevance to associations are strategic, mission, and collaboration questions. These sections emphasize that while careful querying is essential, it’s even more important to adjust your listening approach and practice self-discipline, so people have space and freedom to talk.

“People forget what they heard, but they remember almost everything they say,” notes nonprofit fundraiser Karen Osborne, one of 100-plus “master questioners” interviewed by Sesno. Other sources Sesno taps are leaders of politics, media, and industry: Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor responds to legacy questions, National Public Radio’s Terry Gross speaks of empathy queries, and Uber founders describe the power of creative questions.

Two-page tip sheets for each category conclude this practical and relevant book.


Becoming a Can-Do Leader: A Guide for the Busy Manager

By Frank Satterthwaite and Jamie Millard; Association For Talent Development Press; 133 pages; $28.95

Leadership- development experts Frank Satterthwaite and Jamie Millard are cheerleaders in this quick call to action that alerts leaders to changing workplace attitudes toward traditional do-or-delegate practices.

The authors tout Can-Do Leadership (CDL) as a new model that introduces a dual role for managers, one that requires considerable time spent on both “technical-functional knowledge and skills” and oversight and coordination duties.

CDL is the foundation for a culture of “Can-Do Learning” driven by coaching, candor, and constant feedback. The focus is on getting the right work done, developing team skills, and keeping your own professional abilities honed by selectively performing tasks yourself rather than delegating.

An upbeat read that may inspire edits to your 2017 resolutions list.


Your Creative Mind: How to Disrupt Your Thinking, Abandon Your Comfort Zone, and Develop Bold New Strategies

By Scott Cochrane; The Career Press, Inc.; 272 Pages; $19.99

“Revolutionary thinking” focused on growth is the goal of consultant Scott Cochrane. The key: upgrading your organization’s “creative mind.” Referencing neuroscience, experience, and corporate cases, Cochrane urges leaders to purge constraints to creativity, such as fear and information overload. Once freed, an organization’s people can bond around invention, co-creation, and a rabid commitment to its values and mission.

Collaborations and “created coincidences” also can generate a “success spiral,” he writes.

Look for new models of “innovation partnerships” to emerge, such as that of plane manufacturer Airbus and sailing sensation Oracle Team USA around retaining the America’s Cup. Their unusual pairing has sparked new thinking in both businesses.

Kristin Clarke, CAE

By Kristin Clarke, CAE

Kristin Clarke, CAE, is books editor for Associations Now and president of Clarke Association Content. MORE

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