IT leaders want to be consultative digital transformation advisors and partners to the business. However, many of them are frustrated in this effort because they are not consulted or invited to take part in key decision-making discussions. Even those who have had a place at the table are seeing their influence erode. CIOs are sidelined \u2014 ousted from the leadership circle \u2014 at 37 percent of companies, according to an IDC survey of more than 300 line of business manager. Even when CIOs are asked to give their perspective, it is often negatively viewed as an \u201cIT agenda\u201d that is being pushed on the business.\n\n\nOne reason for this rejection is poor communication. I discovered a failing in my own communication recently that brought this lesson home. I was one of six individuals invited to a small brainstorming session by a friend looking to double his consulting business, and possibly branch into new practices. These moves would have significant transformation effects on his business model, hiring practices and core mission\u2014the same challenges that big companies wrestle with in their own transformations.\n\n\n\nThe other people in the room were wicked smart, as we say in Boston. They started their own businesses, had been CEOs and board members, and advised or coached executives in a variety of industries. I made what I hoped were good contributions, sketching out a framework for the future business. I shared relevant ideas from my own experiences and from other companies, teasing out the practices my friend could consider.\n\n\nOne thing I did not do: Ask questions. The other advisers were asking my friend lots of questions. What is your five-year goal for the business? How comfortable are you with the changes these moves would cause? What would this mean for your leadership role, the talent you\u2019d need on board, and how would you staff projects? How are your current clients demonstrating a need for these proposed services?\n\nAsk and they will receive\n\nGreat questions all. Why didn\u2019t I ask any of them? I listened to my friend\u2019s responses and synthesized these into bigger pictures. But, I literally asked zero questions over the course of the six-hour meeting. I thought, what the hell is wrong with me?\n\n\nI\u2019m not the only one with this problem. IT leaders do it too. They want to be seen as the experts with the helpful answers. To be effective transformation advisors, however, CIOs need to ask more than they tell.\n\n\nThat\u2019s because, like my friend, stakeholders \u2014 especially CEOs \u2014 don\u2019t quite know what they want to do. To help them frame their transformation goals, you need to ask questions. To map potential paths to the goal, you need to ask questions. To identify and weigh the risks in those paths, you need to ask questions. If you do nothing at all but ask questions, you\u2019ll help the stakeholder frame a sharper picture of what could be done. Consultants get five figures or more for doing only that.\n\n\nOne person in our ad hoc advisory board, Nancy, impressed me the most with her method. She would ask a series of questions, and periodically draw a conclusion from the responses and present that back to my friend. He might agree or disagree with her conclusion; either way it led to more clarity.\n\n\nMan, I wish I could do that. It doesn\u2019t come naturally, but I will make a sustained attempt. The hardest part will be to avoid smothering the answers with solutions.\n\n\nHere\u2019s a question for you: What do you ask business peers that usually helps effectively frame their transformational objective or challenge?