Throughout my executive coaching experiences, I have noticed a couple common themes. First, the leaders I’m coaching tend to give more advice and orders, also known as “Do To” vs. asking their employees and taking inventory of their thoughts and ideas. This is known as assumption over inquiry. The more experience and knowledge you have, it’s easier to make these assumptions and give orders.
Secondly, the #1 piece of criticism I hear from employees is “my manager doesn’t get me”. What I found was, leaders don’t get their employees because they’re not taking the time to ask them any questions.
Therefore, I recently introduced the concept of “One More Question”. If you are used to not asking any questions, then start with asking one question. If you’re used to asking one question, getting a surface answer and moving on, try asking one more question. If you don’t know what to ask, here are 17 thought starters I’ve compiled via four different sources.
- WDIP: Sourced from Lisk Associates, LLC and our book RealTime Coaching: A Simple Practical Approach for People Who Rely on Others to Create Results (2017). The WDIP questions work best in a one-on-one coaching scenario and they could also be used for a team or project setting. WDIP is an acronym based on four different types of inquiry vs. making assumptions. The four questions are:
- W=What do you WANT?
- D=What are you currently DOING to get what you want?
- I=IS what you’re doing getting you what you want?
- P =What is your PLAN?
- VISIONEERING: Visioneering (1999) is a book by Andy Stanley. While I will give credit to Andy Stanley for the term, I’ve never read the book. I learned the concept of visioneering from Ret. Lt. Col. Jason Cummins in a leadership development session and I’ve taken his thought-starters to heart. I have found visioneering works well for emerging leaders who haven’t yet taken the think-time to determine how they want to be remembered as a leader. Visioneering makes them more intentional and specifically gives their team someone and something to follow. The visioneering questions I ask are:
- Why are you here? In this job, at this organization, in this city?
- What principles or values do you believe in? Personally? Professionally?
- What is your leadership mindset? What is your primary lens – people, process, or profit?
- What does your future look like? Personally? Professionally? 1 year? 5 years?
- AAR: The AAR got its start from the U.S. Army. It stands for After-Action Review. I find the AAR works best in a team setting after a mission or project has been completed. The AAR is designed to be a more formal open discussion building accountability for a team. The AAR questions are:
- What did we originally set out to accomplish? What was our mission?
- What actually happened? Why the gap?
- What did we do that worked well? These are known as “sustains”.
- What did we do that didn’t work or we could have done better? These are known as “improves.”
- The TAB 5 Questions: TAB is The Alternative Board. TAB started in 1990 and is in the business of helping small business owners. The TAB 5 questions may work best in a more formal review. Here they are:
- What is your dream job and what can I do to support you?
- What might entice you to leave?
- At what percentage are we currently utilizing your talents?
- What is the one thing that would make your job more satisfying?
- Do you feel like we recognize you? What type of recognition means the most to you?
I know the first time you try this your employees may look at you a little funny, but I know they will appreciate the effort you’re making. The end result will be more engaged and motivated employees working for someone who “gets them”.