Exploring Powerful Questions

Episode #1021: Join executive coach, host of the Arete Coach Podcast, and CEO of ePraxis LLC, Severin Sorensen, in a deep dive on powerful questioning. Explored are the 7 elements of powerful questioning, the mechanics of great questions, and examples from executive coaches demonstrating the use of questions in their practice. As the episode progresses, listeners will gain insight into the powerful questions mentioned throughout Episodes #1001-1008 as well as newfound inspiration for crafting unique powerful questions.



About Severin Sorensen

Severin Sorensen is a serial entrepreneur and lifetime learner with a passionate curiosity for people and businesses. Severin is the CEO of ePraxis LLC, a premier level retained search firm that provides executive headhunting, talent selection, and executive coaching. In addition to finding top talent, Severin has provided over 7,500+ hours of paid executive coaching to entrepreneurs, CEOs, Presidents, and C-level executives. Severin is an ICF ACSTH Certified Executive Coach, Certified Organizational Development Coach, Certified Life Coach, and Certified Positive Intelligence® Coach. Severin is the founder/producer of a new podcast, Arete Coach, that explores the art and science of executive coaching with some of the industry's best coaches.


From 2010-2018 Severin was also a Vistage Chair where he coached three CEO and key executive groups. In 2011, Severin received the "Rookie of the Year Chair Award" from Vistage. Since 2013, Severin has added international speaking for Vistage, CEO conferences, executive peer groups, and corporations on the topic of identifying and hiring difference-making top talent.


After graduate school, Severin moved to Washington, DC, where he worked on security-related economic and public policy issues that included a brief stint in The White House, as a Special Assistant to the President, for George H. Bush (POTUS 41). In 1994, Severin founded Sparta Consulting Corp., and Sparta provided world-class physical security and safety related management consulting services for public and private sector entities. From 1994-2002, Severin managed HUD's Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design technical assistance and training program. In 2005, Severin sold Sparta to Westec Interactive (Digital Witness), which was subsequently acquired by Interface Security.


Severin, a native Californian, grew up in Salt Lake City, UT and graduated with honors from the University of Utah with Economics and Political Science degrees. He completed graduate studies in economics at King's College, Cambridge University (England), where he earned a M.Phil. degree in Economics. Severin has a great love and appreciation for sports, and while overseas, Severin rowed for the King's College Boat Club, and played basketball for the Cambridge University Basketball Team (1986-87).


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Key highlights


Types of powerful questions

Timestamp 01:40


After Severin defines what important questions are and why they are important, we dive into several different categories of powerful questions. Some of these categories include identity, pondering transitions, nature, passion, death, and change. In each category, several examples of powerful questions are given.

7 characteristics of powerful questions

Timestamp 03:59


As defined by McTighe and Wiggin, there are several defining characteristics of powerful questions. In their research, they identified seven characteristics that specifically apply to creating powerful questions. These characteristics are: open-endedness, being thought provoking, calling for higher order thinking, points towards transferable ideas, raises questions that spark further inquiry, requires answers that have support, and continually recurring over time. For a deeper dive into how these characteristics are, and how they can be used, read our insight article on 7 Aspects of Powerful Questions.


Short yet powerful questions

Timestamp 17:13


Before referring to previous podcast excerpts, Severin gives the audience great examples of questions that are both powerful and short. These questions include “why not” and others like “why worry”? These short examples can be used as-is in the coaching practice, or elaborated on. For example, a coach can ask, “why do you think worrying is helping you?” as a more specific form of “why worry”.


Podcast excerpts

Timestamp 17:48


As the last main portion of this episode, Severin shares several excerpts from previous episodes of the Arete Coach Podcast where guests shared the most powerful questions they use in their practice. Questions mentioned cover family influence, discovering true desires, and addressing changes that need to be made. Each guest’s excerpt is introduced with the overall theme of their powerful question.


The changing definition of powerful questions

Timestamp 33:38


Severin shares thoughts on changes to the ICF Core Competencies regarding coaching and questions. The definition of powerful questions has changed in the most current issue to address a lesser focus on more “prescriptive type” work and more focus on “client autonomy.” This means that clients are given greater power and responsibility in the creation and obtaining of goals with the guidance of a coach. The changes in the ICF Core Competency represent the growth of the coaching industry to a place of nurturing and supportive guidance that brings clarity of goals and ideals to clients.





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