leadership questions to ask

Asking questions is a valuable leadership skill, and it trips you up.

Some challenges that I’ve heard other leaders say about asking questions:

  • What questions do I ask?
  • I’m not sure that they are meaningful enough.
  • But, I know how to solve the problem – why wouldn’t I tell them what to do?
  • I feel weird
  • It will make me lose leadership authority; people come to for answers

In a SOLVEDmethod workshop with an executive leadership team, I was asked “All these questions are good, and I do not feel comfortable pulling question cards out during a serious 1 on 1 meeting. What questions can I ask?” 

My response was that you need to develop 6 to 8 goto questions that you can use and repeat. The questions ought to be thoughtful and straightforward, plus be true questions not suggestions in the guise of a question. The executive leadership team and I talked through the SOLVEDmethod, and we agreed on the following questions as being good enough.

Coaching Questions for Leaders to Ask Most People and Teams

Opening
  • How do you know this is a problem?
  • How can I best help you in the next 20 minutes?
Situation
  • What is happening that is worrying you?
  • What do you want to happen?
Observation
  • When you are making progress how will others notice?
  • Whose support do you need? How will they notice progress?
Level
  • From 1 – 10. 10 being this is solved, and 1 being the opposite; where are you on this scale?
  • How do you know?
Validation
  • Describe what you did to arrive at the number you chose.
  • How did the other people support or play a part in your progress?
Exception
  • Where is this currently happening, even if just a little?
  • What is working to amplify? What is not working to dampen?
Decision & Direction
  • What is your next step?
  • When can we meet and you can update me?

That’s it … through a series of coaching questions, you are a better leader. If you find that it odd that asking questions makes you a better leader, think about a common managerial-leadership problem – people keep coming to me with problems, and I wish they would think for themselves. By asking the questions above, you will show that you do not know, or need to know all the answers and that the team can figure things out. Plus, when you ask these questions you are developing your leadership skills while respecting the other person to make progress that matters to them – and that is what drives innovation and employee engagement.