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Asking questions that matter: An interview with Ken Coleman

Master interviewer Ken Coleman's book highlights more than 35 A-listers answering life's most important questions.

Radio host and author Ken Coleman interviews NFL quarterback Tim Tebow

Radio host and author Ken Coleman interviews NFL quarterback Tim Tebow

At only 38, Ken Coleman has become one of the most dynamic interviewers in America. He got his start by playing host of Catalyst, one of the largest Christian leadership conferences in America. But now, he can also be found speaking with experts, celebrities, and everyday heroes on his eponymous daily radio show. His list of interviewees includes the likes of former President Jimmy Carter, quarterback Tim Tebow, Senator John McCain, skateboard legend Tony Hawk, hip-hop icon Rev Run, and hoards of New York Times bestselling authors from Jim Collins to Mitch Albom, Malcolm Gladwell to John Maxwell.

But the secret ingredient in Coleman’s interview recipe isn’t the impressive names he attracts. It’s his uncanny ability to connect the interviewee’s passions with what matters most to his audience. And herein lies the magic of Ken Coleman’s debut book, One Question: Life Changing Answers from Today’s Leading Voices, which includes interviews with more than 35 A-listers of whom Coleman asks only one question on topics including faith, dreams, risk, fear, and rejection.

With the release of his book, I decided to interview the interviewer. Here we talk about the art of interviewing, why sports cultivates great leaders, and how one can find their passion.

JM: Your first interview with legendary Duke Basketball Coach Mike Krzyzewski. What did you learn from that first interview? 

KC: I learned that if you are really prepared in terms of your guest and the ideal outcome of the conversation, you can interview anyone.

JM: Who’s been your favorite person to interview? 

KC: Ironically, it was the first interview I ever did, Coach K. He is known for his intensity but it is his heart that makes him a great leader.

JM: What’s been the best answer that’s been given? 

KC: Now that is a great question! Very difficult to answer but the answer that comes to mind first is Tony Dungy’s answer about how adoption changed his family. He was apprehensive but agreed to go to the meeting with his wife, and after the meeting they decided to adopt and eventually adopted four children.

JM: What led you start the One Question blog that has morphed into a book with a major publisher?

KC: Rejection. I had a radio program director shut down an opportunity that had developed here in Atlanta, a top 10 market. Two days later while doing yard work, I got the idea to launch an audio blog featuring one question and one answer from thought leaders, captains of industry and celebrities.

JM: What is it about the world of sports that leaders from all industries can be inspired by? 

KC: Competition, achievement, leadership and teamwork. All business leaders are competitive and they identify with the pursuit a championship. In their world it is the recognition that their business is the best in its industry. The difficulty of reaching the top and staying on top in sports certainly resonates with business leaders as well.

JM: You talk a lot about finding one’s calling. Why is this so important to you? 

KC: I believe everyone has a calling, a certain niche that only you can fill. I call it the sweet spot. The sweet spot for each of us lies at the intersection of our greatest strength and our greatest passion.

JM: What advice would you give to a young professional who’s seeking their passion and purpose in life? 

KC: Find your sweet spot and stay there. Your purpose will reveal itself if you stay in your sweet spot. Our sweet spot answers the “What am I supposed to do?” question, and the “Why?” makes itself clear in time.

JM: How would you describe your book to potential readers?

Courtesy of Simon & Schuster

Courtesy of Simon & Schuster

KC: I wanted to share my curiosity with as many people as possible while providing a great resource of wisdom that could be digested quickly and easily. The premise for me was, If I could only ask one question of the people I admire most, what would I ask? Most people will never write a book, but they can ask questions to those they admire whether the person is well known or not. The goal was to craft a series of unique questions and answers that could encourage, inspire and educate a broad audience with wisdom for every season of life. I believe we have done that in a book that is enjoyable to read.