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How asking courageous questions inspires change

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Sharon Kelly-Hake
President of Great Dames Inc.

The workshop had been planned months ago. The topic was curiosity, specifically how to be productively curious by asking courageous questions. Great Dames, a community whose focus is helping women activate their purpose and passion, would come together virtually in a workshop led by Adina Tovell, a nationally recognized curiosity advocate and expert.

Then COVID-19 hit, and we found ourselves questioning how to lead our families, communities and businesses into an unknown future. Then George Floyd was killed, and we joined people everywhere to ask fierce questions about pervasive racial injustice and unconscious bias.

That’s what Great Dames do well. We ask questions. As women, we frequently engage in powerful conversations to help us know better and do better. We aim to understand what matters most and how we can make sense of the world. We talk about how we can create a better world for our children and future generations. How we can make our mark.

We learned there is a skill involved in crafting and asking courageously curious questions. I do not believe there is a more important time in history to become masters of this skill. Why? This new skill will serve us because it is time to ask courageous questions. Questions that will awaken new insights within us. Insights that illuminate our values and help us to align our actions with our values.

When we are asked a courageous question, it taps into a deeper place within us. Courageous questions make us more open to new ideas and solutions. They play a vital role in teaching, mentoring, forging authentic connections and solving big problems. They help us listen with openness, act in alignment with our values, lead with integrity, love deeply and compassionately.

Guided by Adina, we learned that the process starts with purpose – understanding what matters most and what you want to achieve. Next comes context. Right now we have the opportunity and necessity to boldly ask questions about our society and ourselves.

We learned that a productive question needs to be phrased using positive and empowering language like “If my goal or intention is to…” or “How might I….” or “How else could…” And, we learned that you need to pay attention to mood, tone, timing, and body language when asking courageous questions. Mastering these skills opens up dialogue and change instead of asking questions
in a negative way that can shut the door on the ideas and inclusiveness we need to survive and thrive.

I believe that Great Dames – and there is a Great Dame in all women – love to ask questions, especially when they are surrounded by a community of sisters who show us what it means to listen without judgment, to love unconditionally, and to value others, even when their stories are different from mine. Great Dames show us what it means to believe in all women. And that all women have value and deserve our support.

At this remarkable moment in history, we are asking all women to make a commitment to ask courageous questions and to listen to what they awaken within us. 

Courageously curious questions template for focusing

• If my goal is to ______________, how might I ______________?

• If my intention is to ______________, how can I honor that in this moment?

• If I truly value ______________, what might I ______________?

• If I truly want to show up as ______________, how might I ______________?

 If ______________really matters to me, how might / will / could I ______________?


Sharon Kelly Hake is co-founder and president of Great Dames, Inc.

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