COACHING QUESTIONS :
We see it in television shows , movies and even comics . One character had the answer to the dilemma all along , and when questioned as to why they didn ’ t say anything , their response is : “ You didn ’ t ask .”
“ You mean you could have deactivated the bomb anytime ? Why didn ’ t you tell us ?”
“ You never asked .”
You can ’ t get answers if you don ’ t ask questions . And , more importantly , you can ’ t get the right answers if you don ’ t ask the right questions .
Mastering the art of asking a powerful question is the key to freeing up your time and empowering your team . The more questions you ask , the less advice you give , and the more your employees learn and develop .
KNOWING WHAT TO ASK
Just as important as how to ask a question is what exactly you ask .
In her book Living Your Best Life , Laura Berman Fortgang talks about the common question of “ Why ?” — and reminds us that we start asking this at a young age . When I think about this , I immediately picture a five-year-old asking , “ Why is the sky blue ? . . . Why ? . . . But why ?”
While that “ why ” really helps us as children , it loses its strength in certain areas of our lives as we grow older . It doesn ’ t always bring forth the wisdom we ’ re looking for when we ask a question . Laura points out that asking “ Why ?” can definitely be the key to great discovery , but it ’ s not an effective tool when it comes to making changes .
She suggests asking deeper and more useful questions . She gives this example in her book : “ If I asked you , ‘ Why are you reading this book ?’ you might tell me a story about some things you are wondering about . Maybe you ’ d go on to provide a few details about what brought you to this moment of information seeking . Your responses would probably have something to do with your past .” But if you were instead asked , “ What outcome do you want to reach by reading this book ?” your answers would become future-oriented , she says .
It seems to me that asking “ What ?” instead of “ Why ?” might just be one of the ways to ask a good question . Replace your usual “ why ” questions with updated “ what ” questions and you ’ ll be surprised at how forward-thinking the conversation becomes .
INSTEAD OF : WHY ARE YOU HERE ? ASK : WHAT ’ S ON YOUR MIND ?
When someone schedules a meeting with you or wants to have a conversation , you probably think , “ Why is this person here ?” Because at the end of the day , you want to know what exactly they are doing in your office . But rather than asking them why , ask them what . The Kickstart Question — “ What ’ s on your mind ?” — transforms your why into an open-ended question that gets to what matters most . It cuts through the banal chitchat to uncover what ’ s going on . ( And then you can follow it up with the best coaching question in the world : “ And what else ?”)
INSTEAD OF : WHY ARE YOU STRUGGLING WITH THIS ? ASK : WHAT ’ S THE REAL CHALLENGE HERE FOR YOU ?
The Focus Question — “ What ’ s the real challenge here for you ?” — is meant to get to the heart of the matter . It still addresses the “ why ” that you want to know , but it brings clarity to the issue at hand and makes it personal by asking the other person to explain what the challenge is for them specifically .
INSTEAD OF : WHY ARE YOU COMING TO ME ? ASK : WHAT DO YOU WANT ?
“ What do you want ?” is the Foundation
Question . With it , you ’ re asking the other person to really think about what they want . This is different from asking why they are coming to you , which will often only elicit a response of “ Uh , because , uh , you ’ re the boss and . . .” That reply doesn ’ t help anyone . By forcing them to think about what they want , you ’ ll also find out what , if anything , you can do to help .
“ What can I do ?” and also what I call the Lazy Question — “ How can I help ?” — are good questions to ask because they keep you curious . “ What do you want ?” will narrow in on what exactly the person is hoping to get out of the conversation , but the Lazy Question forces them to make a clear request of you . It answers the “ why ” that you needed but also draws out more .
INSTEAD OF : WHY CAN ’ T YOU DO THIS ? ASK : IF YOU ’ RE SAYING YES TO THIS , WHAT ARE YOU SAYING NO TO ?
As a busy manager , you probably know what it ’ s like to be overwhelmed and overcommitted . Strategy ( a highly abused word , in my opinion ) is all about knowing when to say no to an idea in order to really define another yes . Asking the Strategic Question — “ If you ’ re saying yes to this , what are you saying no to ?” — forces the other person to think and prioritize . It brings them closer to their Great Work and helps them decide what they need to let go of . It also asks it in a safe way . You can see how a question like “ Why can ’ t you do this ?” might cause a fight-or-flight response and make the other person feel like they should keep piling on the work .
We learn from one another by asking questions , and we inspire our teams by doing so too . The Learning Question — “ What was most useful for you ?” – is a way to finish a conversation with meaning on both sides . It creates an opportunity of learning , as it encourages the other person to reflect on the conversation , which is what leads to insight and learning .
Knowing how to ask a question well is what helps you stay lazy . A good question keeps you curious and helps you give less advice and do less work , while having more impact . +