7 Ways to Ask Questions like a Coach

Illustration concept clipart questions queries dialog questionsLeaders should be more coach-like. I’m probably not the first person who has penned those words in a blog post. My guess is that you’ve heard that advice before—possibly even tried being more coach-like with your team members and direct reports but ultimately realized that it takes a lot of time to do well.

A new book by Michael Bungay Stanier, The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever, just might be the solution every well-meaning manager has been looking for. I finished the book during my recent vacation. (I can hear the groans—Reading a business book on vacation; really?—but it was definitely worth it.) Stanier, an acclaimed executive coach and former coach of the year in his native Canada, shares seven questions any manager can use to increase their leadership effectiveness—especially during One on Ones.

I don’t want to give it all away here—you really need to read the book to appreciate the nuance and genius of what Stanier shares, but in a nutshell the seven questions are

  1. What’s on your mind? A brilliantly simple way to open up a one-on-one conversation, invite people to share, and get at what is most important in the moment
  2. And what else? Three little words that open up possibilities, insights, and increased self-awareness
  3. What’s the real challenge here for you? The question that slows down the rush to find the first answer instead of solving the real problem
  4. What do you want? Taking the time to discover the need and the desired outcome that makes charting the journey easier
  5. How can I help? Insisting on a clear direct request that you as a leader can respond to
  6. What will you say no to if you’re truly saying yes to this? Life is about choices. This question identifies the tough trade-offs.
  7. What was most useful for you? Gathering feedback and extracting value from the conversation

If you are a well-meaning manager who wants to have more-productive conversations with your people, try these questions. Bonus: They also work great for those work-related conversations at home—you know, right after you ask, “How was your day?” You’ll see the power of these questions immediately.

Coaching-HabitFor those interested in learning more about the method behind the magic, be sure to check out all the praise and positive reviews on Amazon. See why Dan Pink, Brené Brown, and Dave Ulrich, along with 300 other positive reviewers, are so excited—including me!

Conducting successful One on Ones are a key leadership competency. Learn how asking these seven questions can help you be the manager you want to be.

About the Author

David Witt 1David Witt is the Program Director for The Ken Blanchard Companies. A business-focused writer, researcher, and speaker, David is the editor and lead columnist for The Ken Blanchard Companies Ignite! online newsletter, moderator of the company’s LeaderChat blog, and host of the company’s monthly webinar programming.

2 thoughts on “7 Ways to Ask Questions like a Coach

  1. Dave, – thanks for sharing. Always worth remember that asking questions (being coach like) is an important part of leadership.

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