If we want better answers we need to ask better questions

Whether we want information, have a conversation, get to the bottom of a problem, or get to know someone, questions are essential.

Charlotte Ashley-RobertsThe way we ask a question can have a big impact on the usefulness of the answers we get, so we asked Charlotte Ashley-Roberts to help us look at asking better questions, so that we get better answers!

Charlotte is a careers coach at Your Time to Grow and her questioning skills have often been remarked on by members of our Drive Tribe.

This is a summary of an Ask the Expert session in the Drive Facebook Group.

We started by asking Charlotte what she’s good at:

Charlotte Ashley-RobertsI’m good at coaching… Which in essence means I’m good at listening to what you’re saying and letting you get your thoughts all out of your head in a safe, non-judgemental, empathetic environment.

I’m also good at asking questions that make you stop and think…perfect for small business owners and leaders. 

I have life experience and have worked with over 4500 clients over the last ten years and so I like to think that I bring a sense of calm and wisdom to what you ask me.

In fact, my experience of being a working mum and the changes motherhood made to my own career is what catapulted me into coaching.

Faced with business owners who want to know what to do to achieve their goals,  Charlotte has a disconcerting habit of asking, “What are you most afraid of?”

It’s a key question for entrepreneurs and business owners. What stops us from making the leap and fulfilling our potential?

Deep down we all have fears which stop us in our tracks.

“Whatever your fear is, bombard it with facts,” says Charlotte. And she suggests doing this by asking good questions, like:

“How do you know people won’t pay that for your service?”


“Have you ever done anything like this before? What did you learn? What strengths did you use?”

Charlotte’s advice when we run into fear is to question ourselves about it. Keep asking yourself questions and see if the fear stands up to interrogation.

You should also do your research. Things seem less scary when you find out more about what’s involved.

Charlotte said: “If it’s the fear of the unknown, make it known. Do lots of research into the area but also into yourself. Where is the fear stemming from specifically?

Jo Dorrington-Neville What would you say to someone who has ideas of things they would like to do but due to fear of unknown, not being good enough/messing up they keep putting off taking any steps in that direction?

Charlotte The thing about not feeling good enough is that we can all have days like that and we need to challenge it. Look at what you’ve achieved and ask your friends what they think you’re good at.

So thinking of a process e.g., selling a new product. The end goal is to sell the thing, right? But what steps do you need to take to get to that point?

The first step might be to write down your idea. But the first step to that might be opening a new document on your computer or writing it in a book. And the first step to that might be opening your laptop or getting up and grabbing a pen.

It seems mad but when you realise the tiniest step you need to take it’s easier to do it as it doesn’t seem such a big deal.

Progress, not perfection, is the aim. Don’t get paralysed by fear into not taking any action at all. We all make mistakes. It’s how we learn. Listen to others stories and get wisdom and ideas to inspire yourself.

Challenge yourself to think about things from another perspective.

Ann Hawkins If someone is saying something you disagree with, how do you shelve your own feelings and encourage them to talk without feeling judged?

Charlotte Ashley-Roberts Honestly, I haven’t always been able to do this but I’ve noticed I compartmentalise my coaching from other parts of my life and like I do with confidentiality I just don’t think about it… However, if I find myself getting distracted by my own opinion I might:

Mentally give myself a talking to

Challenge their thoughts with a ‘what other perspective could you think of’ kind of question

Shut myself up and apologise if I’ve shown judgement

I’ve luckily not had this often. I’d say I’m pretty accepting. If I can’t work with a client due to a fundamental clash then I’d tell them.

Also, if something they’ve said triggers me in some way I go away and reflect on it and get supervision support from my own coach.

And to encourage them to talk… I listen harder! Silence is brilliant for letting people talk. I also keep my body language open, I tend to do that naturally.

Charlotte Ashley-Roberts I think there’s a perception we need to do it all, definitely worse for women and wholly damaging to everyone. To be clear…. NO ONE DOES OR HAS IT ALL. Compromise is always required. I prioritise things that are important to me and that’s 1) my health and wellbeing 2) my family and 3) my career, in that order.

My roles all take empathy and requires energy and so I look after myself because if I don’t, then I’m not good at looking anyone else.

For me that includes running, yoga, eating well, meditation.

It also means I hired a cleaner to come once a fortnight for an hour and I do shopping online to save money and time. This seemed like a big investment but the reality is that I have more time to do the important things in my life.

The second point is the priority vs investment question. We need to charge our worth and yes, that might be expensive to some. There’s a few people with lots of money and lots of  people with some money. We cannot appeal to everyone and as a coach people either like my style or not and that’s OK. There’s plenty of coaches.

But when it comes to spending money, it comes down to our priorities. We all find money and time buy/do the things we want to… As we should. It’s an investment in yourself.

If ypu’d like to hear more from Charlie, follw her blog at Your Time to Grow