Last week I wrote about how important it is for leaders to welcome questions from their team members. By building a culture in which people feel empowered to ask us meaningful questions, we can learn and grow as leaders.

The same growth can take place when questions flow in the other direction, from us as leaders to our teammates. I do not mean reactive questions like:

‘What were you thinking?”

“Why did you say that?”

“How could you have taken that approach?”

“What didn’t you understand about my message?”

“What was that email all about?”

Rather, I am referring to thoughtful questions that cause our teammates to pause and think, questions that motivate them to reflect upon heir habits, the lens through which they see things, of the assumptions they may be making.

You might be saying, “Larry that sounds like coaching.” And you would be correct. Many excellent leaders cultivate a coaching mindset in managing their team members. When we adopt that mindset, we can still supervise our teammates, but we can also help them grow. One of the best ways to do that is to ask them challenging coaching-type questions, questions that cause them to pause and think.

Based on a recent webinar I attended led by Michael Bungay Stanier, (author “The Coaching Habit” and “The Advice Trap) and a coach mentoring session I had with a dear friend, here are some of the thoughtful questions leaders can ask their teammates to promote growth and learning:

-What’s the real challenge here for you?

-If you say yes to this, what will you say no to?

-What’s most important to you about this?

-What’s the burden it’s finally time for you to let go of?

-What are you hiding from yourself that you don’t want me to see?

-What’s the first step you are committed to take to move forward?

-What’s standing in the way for you?

-How do you think you are contributing to this challenging situation?

-What skill of yours is underutilized?

-What’s next for you on this path?

-What ladder do you want to climb here?

-What door do you want to open here?

-What’s poisoning the well for you here?

-What’s the struggle you need to extract yourself from?

-What’s the lesson learned you can hold onto in this moment?

-What do you know now that you don’t know before?

-What will you do differently going forward?

-What’s one thing you can do starting tomorrow to…?

-What’s the difference between have to and choose to?

-How will you hold yourself accountable?

-What are three things you want to do about this before our next meeting?

-What does reaching that vision look like to you?

-Do you think you have what you need to move forward?

-What could you do to silence those negative voices?

-What is that about?

Questions can be very powerful tools for leaders, regardless of where we are on our own leadership journeys. I encourage you to use them wisely and frequently with all your team members.

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